New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Wednesday imposed a penalty of Rs10 lakh each on 12 media houses for disclosing the name and other details of the Kathua gang rape victim.
The fine so collected would be contributed to the Jammu and Kashmir Victim Compensation Scheme, after the same is deposited by the erring media houses with the registrar general of the high court within a week.
On 13 April, a bench comprising acting chief justice of the high court Gita Mittal and justice C. Hari Shankar had taken suo-moto cognizance of the “nature and manner of reporting" of the alleged gang rape of an eight-year-old girl in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
While observing that the reporting by the media houses was in “absolute violation" of law and disrespected the privacy of the victim, the court had issued notices to 12 media houses including Times of India, The Hindu, Republic TV, Indian Express, The Week and NDTV, to show why any action against them for violation of statutory prohibitions should not be initiated.
The court had directed the media houses to take steps to prohibit any disclosure of the name, address, photographs, family details, school details, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may have an effect of leading the disclosure of the identity of the child victim.
“The media has to circumvent in reporting to the extent it is in contravention of law. Freedom of press has to be balanced with the integrity of the judicial process, and must comport with the requirements of the law," the court had observed.
Section 23 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 specifically prohibits any reporting or comments which may have the effect of lowering his/her reputation or infringing upon his/her privacy. A publisher or media house, if found to be in contravention of the section, is liable to be punished with imprisonment for a period ranging from six months to one year, or fine, or both.
Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code also imposes a similar embargo on publication of identity of a victim of a sexual offence, making any contravention punishable with a maximum of two years imprisonment along with imposition of fine.