It is an unfortunate truth that even today, rape victims are subjected to more social stigma than the actual rapists. The law has to take that into account, which is why maintaining the anonymity and privacy of rape victims is a crucial aspect of criminal law in India.
Bombay High Court orders privacy of rape victims
Bombay High Court has reminded investigative agencies to respect the privacy of rape victims. Justice Vibha Kankanwadi and Justice Abhay S. Waghwase noted that information including photos showing the victim’s identity should be in a sealed envelope. The Court prohibited adding photos to the charge-sheet as well. The rationale behind it is that the charge-sheet is handled by many persons and including photos in it poses the risk of disclosure of the identity.
Disclosure of identity of Rape victims is a punishable offence under Section 228A of Indian Penal code (IPC). Sub-section 1 prohibits disclosure in cases involving offence under section 376, 376A, 376AB, 376B, 376C, 376D, 376DA, 376 DB and section 376E. All these sections are related to crimes which are sexual in nature. Section 23 of the POCSO Act, and Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act also contain similar provisions for victim children. Section 327 of CrPC mandates in-camera hearing for these acts.
Also Read: Gender Stereotypes in the Spotlight as Allahabad High Court prosecutes woman for Gang Rape Case
Exceptions and need for guidelines
Additionally, even the disclosure through indirect correlation needs to be clearly prohibited. Any information related to the victim which can disclose the identity should not be put in public domain. These include names of any of her close relatives, friend or any other record of victim which makes her directly identifiable. For instance, in one case a State Board topper was a victim and reported, though her name was not used, the information was. There needs to be strict guidelines regarding that.
There are exceptions to this and they can only be exercised only when it serves the interest of the victim. Additionally, a conscious, strong and able victim can also give permission for disclosing her identity.
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