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  • Writer's pictureVidhi Chouradia

Case Analysis: Nipun Saxena v. Union of India & Ors

Author: Vidhi Chouradia,

GH Raisoni Law College

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Citation: WP (C) No. 565 of 2012

Petitioner(s): Nipun Saxena.

Respondent(s): U.O.I.

Justice: Hon'ble J. Deepak Gupta; Hon'ble J. M. B. Lokur


Factual Background

The guilty party for assault and murder of a 23-year-old woman in 2014 was sentenced to death by the Bombay High Court on December 20. The identity of the victim was included in media reports about the incident, as well as her photograph. Times Now, Mumbai Mirror, New Indian Express, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, and First Post were among the notable media outlets who exploited the Apex Court's directives. Sec 228A[i] specifically allows for “non-disclosure of the identity of the assault victim.” When the victim is unconscious or dead, only a fictitious government aid organisation or association may expose the victim's identity, and the consent of the closest family is required. The Kathua attack case[ii] is an excellent point of comparison and an exercise for the media, but they unfortunately failed to learn from it. In comparison, a similar breach by the media resulted in a penalty of Rs.10 lakhs being paid to the Victim Compensation Fund. The media companies, as well as several legal institutions, were irresponsible in maintaining the anonymity of the attack victim. In 2003, the SC, which included J. Doraiswamy Raju and Arijit Pasayat, decided that the societal goal of preventing social exploitation or shunning of a sexual crime victim should be addressed. Keeping in mind section 228A, any court should not reveal the identity of the individual in issue, which is why the court uses the term "casualty" in its judgements. Unfortunately, in a few situations, the incomparable court has been irresponsible. In pursuance of the same incident taking place several times with different victims, the writ petition had been filed hereby.


LAWS DISCUSSED

IPC

a. Sec 376

b. Sec 376A

c. Sec 376AB

d. Sec 376C

e. Sec 376DA

f. Sec 376DB

g. Sec 376E

h. Sec 228A

CrPC

a. Sec 372

b. Sec 373

POSCO Act

a. Sec 23(1)

b. Sec 24(5)

c. Sec 33(7)

The JJ Act, 2015

a. Sec 74


ISSUES RAISED

a. Why should rape victims' identities not be disclosed?

b. In what conditions, if at all, may it be revealed?

c. Is POCSO Act preview covered by non-disclosure of victim's individuality?


ARGUMENTS MADE BY PETITIONERS

Rape, gang rape, and other forms of rape were excluded from class of cases that might be tried in open court, according to the Court. Sec 376, 376A, 376AB, 376B, 376C, 376DA, 376DB, or 376E apply to anybody who makes public the name and identify of a person who is an alleged victim of an infraction, according to Subsec (1) of Sec 228A IPC.


ARGUMENTS MADE BY THE RESPONDENTS

The respondents stressed that although they do not want to reduce the right of guardian to question the prosecutrix in any manner, they do believe that the process should be carried out with a certain level of decency and respect on loose. Efforts have been made to sharpen Courts; nevertheless, history has shown that even with the most severe punishment, the first of which was issued in 1996 in State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh[iii], the Courts still discover the name of victim in question. Because of this clause, freedom of speech and expression takes a backseat. Identity and names are only imposed on the basis of truth.


JUDGMENT

The SC's interpretation of the statute clearly reveals that the arrangement was intended to make sure that the unlucky survivor wasn’t exposed to foster misery via succeeding social exploitation or isolation as a result of her name being revealed. It is suggested that she be protected from mental and societal pain, as well as emotional anguish, that may arise as a result of the heinous act of sexual violence.

Society owes it to sexual assault victims to assist them and ensure that they are able to return to normalcy and resume their lives. Survivors of such heinous acts aren’t deprived of their fundamental “right to security”, and they are at danger of being shielded from meaningless public statements. Without a doubt, it satisfies a recognized societal need while still including an element of open curiosity. The region is so plain and unequivocal that the outcome is unavoidable, and the question of whether the exposure was anticipated, genuine, or without knowledge of the law is irrelevant. As a result, the arrangement of section 228A IPC, which prohibits a denounced from revealing his or her identity, is complete and cannot be diminished.[iv]


CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF JUDGMENT MADE

The bench, which included Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ., issued directives and shed light on two extremely critical and essential topics in a very clear and analytical manner:

· It states that the names of adult rape victims and minors who have been sexually assaulted should be protected so that they are not subjected to unwarranted humiliation or abuse.

· The POCSO is responsible for issues involving the non-disclosure of a victim's name and identify.

The current decision has been drafted in two sections, each dealing with the above-mentioned problems independently. “A victim of a sexual offense, particularly a rape victim, is regarded worse than the offender.”

The bench, while declaring that a rape victim is considered as a “pariah” and is shunned by society, also acknowledged that many incidents of rape go unreported due to misguided conceptions of so-called "honour" that the victim's family want to protect.

"A victim's first encounter with justice is an unpleasant one in which she is made to feel guilty; she is the perpetrator of the crime."

The court said unequivocally that they really do not plan to restrict defense's freedom to cross-examine prosecutrix in any manner, but it should be conducted with basic respect. Efforts have been made to sensitize the courts, however history has shown that despite the early warnings, the first of which was issued in 1996 in State of Punjab v. Gurmit Singh[v], the victim's name is nevertheless revealed by the courts today. Further, the Court cited Sec 228A IPC and Sec 327 CrPC, 1973, stating that “rape, gang rape, and other cases were excluded from the category of cases to be tried in open Court by the Amendment Act of 1983.” A person who makes public “the name and identify of a person who is an alleged victim of an act u/s 376, 376A, 376AB, 376B, 376C, 376DA, 376DB, or 376E” commits an offence, according to Sub-sec (1) of Sec 228A. Sub-sec (2) of Sec 228A refers to revealing the victim's identify by printing or dissemination in specific situations. No one may print or publish the victim's name or expose any facts that may lead to her identification and reveal her identity to the wider public, according to the court. The phrase "matter that may reveal the identify of the individual" not only means that victim's name shouldn't be revealed, but also that it shouldn't be recognized from any media coverage.

To raise public opinion and sympathy, the Court did not believe it was essential to divulge the victim's identify. Even if the individual's next of kin consents, the identity of the person should not be released without the permission of the appropriate authorities, according to the Court. Another bothersome issue is the "next of kin" provision, which allows the chairman or secretary of registered assistance agencies to reveal the identity of their victim.

Nobody may print or publish any matter in regard to any proceedings within the ambit of Sec 228A IPC and Sec 327 (2) CrPC, according to Sub-sec (3) of Sec 228A IPC. If the offender is acquitted and the victim wishes to file an appeal u/s 372 CrPC, the victim might ask the Court to allow her to do so under a pseudonymous identity.

Sec 24(5) and 33(7) make it very plain that the child's name and identity are not to be revealed at any point during the inquiry or trial, and that the child's identity is safeguarded from the public or media.

The goal of POCSO is to guarantee that a child's identity is not revealed until the Special Court expressly authorizes it in writing, and that such disclosure may only be done if it is in the child's best interests. The Court decided that fully defining the notion of "best interests" is neither practicable nor desirable.

The bench went on to say that the media must not only be cautious, but that it also has a responsibility to guarantee that it does nothing and discloses no information that may lead to the child's name being revealed, either directly or indirectly. "The media should be wary of sensationalizing the situation." Television Rating Points (TRPs) may be gained by sensationalizing such situations; however it does not reflect well on the media's reputation.

The media is not only prohibited from disclosing the child's identify, but is also prohibited by law from disclosing any information that might lead to exposure of child's identity, a breach of which would be punishable u/s 23(2) POCSO[vi]. Another issue stated by the amicus curiae was that the publishing should only refer to a live kid, a point with which the Supreme Court disagreed, since “in the case of deceased victims, the consideration to be considered was the dignity of the dead, which could not be ignored.”

The judgement of Calcutta HC in Bijoy v. State of W.B[vii], outlined the rationale when dealing with the requirements of POCSO and decided that the victim's identity should not be revealed during the inquiry or during the trial. The SC bench in this instance agrees with the judgment's orders to guarantee that the law's provisions are fulfilled in form and spirit and that the basic rights of child victims are respected.

The Bench directed the Chairpersons and Members of all Juvenile Justice Committees of all HC(s) to review the Calcutta HC's verdict and make directives in accordance with the requirements of each HC/State. The Court also outlined the creation of "One Stop Centres" by drawing inspiration from Hyderabad's "BHAROSA," which may serve as a blueprint for other one-stop centers around the nation.


CONCLUSION

Our societies have been traditionally patriarchal and the same is also reflected in the laws governing the land. Laws are a reflection of the needs of the society. Rape is undoubtedly the most intrinsic violation of one’s bodily privacy and mental health. It not only leaves behind physical scars but also mental scars. The same is aggravated by the society which for reasons best known to it does not easily amalgamate back the survivors of rape into the society. Rape is as such a much torturous event or incident and the society instead of helping the survivor mock them and ironically holds them responsible for whatever happened with them. This is the very reason why rape victims do not want their names to be disclosed or known to the public as they obviously do not want to face any sort of societal shame, persecution of bycott. This is the very reason that law leaves it upon the victim to decide if they want their identity to be known to the world. Even while we pretend to be progressing, our culture continues to look down on victims, subjecting them to social taboos and shame. The fact that a woman's dignity is related to her sexuality in our culture is a social stigma and a regrettable event. Section 228 establishes a provision prohibiting the revealing of rape victims' identities. However, some news organizations do not respect the law and instead disclose the identities of victims. The law must be obeyed in its entirety. The right to freedom of the press, or the right to freedom of speech and expression, cannot simply be used to limit the rights of victims. Everyone should rigorously adhere to the rules, and those who do not must pay a hefty penalty.


REFERENCES [i] The Indian Penal Code, 1860. [ii] See more at: “Kathua rape-murder case: Life sentence for 3 | All that happened in 10 points”, India Today (January 1, 2021) https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/kathua-rape-murder-case-verdict-1546315-2019-06-11 [iii] (1996) 2 SCC 384. [iv] WP (C) No. 565 of 2012, pg 40. [v] Supra 3. [vi] The POCSO Act, 2012. [vii] 2017 SCC OnLine Cal 417.

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