THE Hathras gangrape incident took the internet by storm and netizens were demanding that the culprits should be brought to Justice and strictly penalized. This is a legitimate call. But in this entire hue and cry, many, including high class celebrities crossed the line and disclosed the identity of victim.
These celebrities who have a great following on social media used a Hashtag which disclosed the name of the victim and this criminal hashtag was obviously set to become a trend. Some of them even shared pictures of the victim without blurring it. This was another illegal and worrisome instance incidental to this rape case and equally shocking and condemnable.
The point of law on the issue is well settled by statutory declarations and the judicial pronouncements. By and large, they place an absolute bar on any kind of identity disclosure of rape victim in the public domain. The act of disclosing the identity of rape victim constitutes an offense and is punishable under Section 228A of Indian Penal Code (I.P.C). Section 228A of I.P.C is clear and unambiguous — the consequence of breach of it is inescapable and the question whether the disclosure was intended, bonafide or without knowledge of law has no relevance.
Supreme Court, in the Nipun Saxena Case had declared,”No person can print or publish in print, electronic, social media, etc. the name of the victim or even in a remote manner disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified and which should make her identity known to the public at large. Where the victim is dead or of unsound mind the name of victim or her identity should not be disclosed even under the authorization of the next of the kin, unless circumstances justifying the disclosure of her identity exist, which shall be decided by the competent authority.”
This law has a social objective of preventing social victimization or ostracisation of the victim or her family. It needs to be understood that it is not mandatory to use the name of victim as a symbol for protest or to arouse public opinion and sentiment against heinous sexual offenses.
Furthermore for the efficient implementation of any law and to avoid repercussions of lawlessness, the awareness of laws in public becomes sine qua non. Mere publication of laws in official gazette will definitely not suffice. There should be legal awareness programmes conducted on a large scale by governmental and non-governmental organisations throughout the country so as to have an effective check and permanent control on such mass violation of laws.
Raqeen Ul Hassan
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