The Madras High Court banned print and electronic media from publishing the identities of victims of sexual abuse.
The single bench of Judge M. Dhandapani held like this “…the print and electronic media are not mortal to understand the implications of the act they are committing, which, indeed, gravely affects the victims and their family members, but is simply guided by the ratings of eavesdropping and monetary considerations which fall under the news they take to the palm of its citizens. Such an act was perpetrated by the print media, which, despite the fact that this Court had ordered the initiation of an action against the officers concerned, who had leaked the names of the victims to the media, who practiced in the written and electronic press, came back to the fore and published not only the identity of the victims, but also the depositions of the victims. ”
The Court was dealing with a petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation asking for strict measures against those responsible for ‘Nakkheeran Magazine’ who revealed the identities of the victims and other details, including photographs of the victims in a gang rape case.
The applicant had filed with the Court the publication produced by the weekly magazine ‘Nakkheeran’ in which the names of the victims as well as their detailed testimony before the respective investigators were published together with the names of the defendants.
“…regardless of the fact that the above would not only jeopardize the final outcome of the trial, but would have a chilling effect on the victim, forcing them into a shell and refraining from unveiling the real truth out of fear for his life and the lives of their loved ones. This will only get the offenders out unscathed and ultimately the whole investigative mechanism as well as the justice system would be ridiculed not only by the public but also by the media printed and electronic themselves.”, the Court expressed.
The court noted that the documents, which have been released, gave intricate details of the victims’ testimonies, including their names and how they came into contact with the accused.
“The released documents, which this Court has reviewed, not only identify the victims, but give a verbatim version of the deposition they gave to the investigative agency. The above act of releasing the aforementioned documents n is not only in bad taste, but against the very spirit of the order and is a direct interference in the dispensation of justice.”noted the court.
The Court ordered that the weekly ‘Nakkheeran’ be brought into the present application as a defendant to justify the necessity of publishing the said material.
While issuing a series of instructions, the Court prohibited all print and electronic media from publishing, telecasting or broadcasting any material relating to the testimony of victims of sexual abuse or any of the witnesses.
The Court further barred them from publishing, televising or broadcasting the identities of victims, family members and witnesses, who testify at trial in altered or blurred form.
The Court further issued a warning and ruled “It is specified that any breach by the written or electronic press of the aforementioned instructions would result in the initiation of serious proceedings by the Court against the said entity”.
CRL. MP No. 13621 OF 2022
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