The Madras High Court has pulled up print and electronic media for publishing the identity of victims of sexual abuse.

The Single Bench of Justice M. Dhandapani held thus "…the print and electronic media are not mortals to understand the implications of the act that they commit, which, in effect, affect the victims and their family members gravely, but are merely guided by the ratings and the monetary considerations that fall out of the news that they take to the palm of its citizenry. Such an act has been perpetrated by the print media, who, inspite of the fact that this Court had directed initiation of action against the concerned officers, who had divulged the names of the victims to the media, which was carried on in the print and electronic medium, have once again come to the fore and have 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 seeking stringent action against the responsible persons of 'Nakkheeran Magazine' who had revealed the identity of the victims and other details including the photographs of the victims in a gang rape case.

The petitioner had placed before the Court the publication carried out by the Weekly Magazine 'Nakkheeran' in which the names of the victims as also their detailed deposition before the respective investigating officers have been published along with the names of the accused.

"…unmindful of the fact that the above would not only jeopardize the ultimate outcome of the trial, but would have an intimidating effect on the victim forcing them to go into a shell and desist from coming out with the real truth for fear of their lives and that of their loved ones. This will only lead to the offenders walking out scot-free and ultimately the entire investigative mechanism as also the justice delivery system would be ridiculed not only by the public, but also by the very print and electronic media.", the Court expressed.

The Court noted that the materials, which have been published, has given intricate details about the depositions of the victims including their names and the manner in which they have come in contact with the accused.

"The materials published, which this Court had gone through, not only identifies the victims, but gives a verbatim version of the deposition given by them to the investigating agency. The above act of publication of the aforesaid materials is not only in bad taste, but against the very spirit of the order and is a direct interference in the dispensation of justice.", the Court remarked.

The Court ordered the weekly magazine 'Nakkheeran' to be impleaded in the present petition as a party respondent to show cause as to the necessity for publishing the said material.

While issuing a slew of directions, the Court restrained all print and electronic media from publishing and telecasting or broadcasting any materials pertaining to deposition of sexual abuse victims or any of the witnesses.

The Court further restrained them from publishing and telecasting or broadcasting the identities of the victims, their family members and the witnesses, who depose at the trial either in morphed form or blurred form.

The Court further issued a warning and held "It is made clear that any infraction by the print or electronic media of the aforesaid directions would entail in severe action being initiated by this Court against the said entity".

CRL. M.P. No. 13621 OF 2022

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