The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday while dealing with the issue of disclosure of identity of rape victims, including the eight year old Kathua girl, observed that ‘even the dead have dignity. They cannot be named or shamed.’
It said that even in cases where the rape victims were alive and were either minors or of unsound mind, their identities should not be revealed as they have the right to privacy and they cannot live under such a “stigma” throughout their life.
“Think of the dignity of dead also. It (media reporting) can be done without naming or shaming them. The dead also have dignity,” a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said while hearing the matter in which senior lawyer Indira Jaising raked up the issue of section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deals with disclosure of identity of victims of sexual offences.
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The bench, which agreed to examine the aspect related to section 228-A of the IPC, also questioned as to how the identity of a minor rape victim could be disclosed even after getting consent from her parents.
“Why should this happen, that the identity of a minor victim be disclosed just because her parents have given consent,” the bench asked, adding, “Even if a person is of unsound mind, she has a right to privacy. A minor will become major. Why should this stigma be there for life”.
Jaising, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, said it was necessary for the apex court to clarify section 228-A of the IPC.
She said there cannot be a “blanket ban” on the media from reporting such incidents and the apex court would have to balance freedom of press and the rights of the victim.
During the hearing, the bench observed that the issue required clarification. It asked that even in cases where the victim had died, “why should there be disclosure of name”.
Jaising, without directly referring to the Kathua incident, said in a recent case, the victim had died which had led to demand for justice not only in India but also globally.
The gangrape and murder of the eight-year-old girl, who belonged to nomadic Muslim community, took place in the Kathua district in January. After being missing for a week, her body was found on January 17.
Eight accused have been arrested in the case, and have pleaded not guilty. The lawyer of the accused has also said that they are ready for a narco test.
The lawyer of the victim, Deepika Singh Rajawat has said that she fears for her life and could get killed or raped. She also added that the she is facing a social boycott and is being called ‘anti-Hindu’ for taking up the case.
According to a report published in The Times of India, the father sought security for the victim’s family and lawyers representing them.
Moreover, the victim’s father has moved a plea in the Supreme Court asking for the transfer of the case to Chandigarh.
The Supreme Court recently had asked Jammu and Kashmir court to reply by April 27 whether a plea to transfer the Kathua rape and murder case from the state’s courts to Chandigarh should be allowed.
The Jammu and Kashmir government recently said that the trial won’t be shifted outside the state and is likely to be conducted in a Jammu court on fast track basis.
The Minister for law, Abdul Haq Khan told English Daily Greater Kashmir that the Jammu and Kashmir Government was committed to a fair and speedy trial in the case. He said there were more than 100 witnesses in the case who would not be able to travel outside the state for deposition.