Media will no longer have free rein in revealing the identity of the accused in sexual offence cases. In a significant move to ensure the protection of the identity of accused individuals in rape cases who become victims of alleged media trials, the Kerala High Court has issued an order stating that no person shall print or publish the names and details of the parties, including the accused, in sexual offence cases.
The order will go a long way in enabling accused in several cases to approach the court seeking a direction to remove all sorts of news articles and media reports that had revealed their identity.
This order is a significant step in preventing alleged media trials and the sensationalised news culture that tarnishes the image of individuals after being booked by the police in sexual offence cases. The order, issued by Kerala High Court Justice Kauser Edappagath, completely prohibits the publication of the names of the accused in rape cases. The Judge has mandated that the publication of the identity of the accused can only be done with the previous permission of the court, and even then, it must be subject to maintaining the confidentiality of the names and addresses of both the victim and the accused parties.
The court issued this crucial order to ensure the dignity and privacy of the accused in rape cases after an accused in a sexual offence case approached the court seeking an order against two media houses to remove an article from their website that revealed his identity.
“Hence, the law as it stands now clearly provides that it shall not be lawful for a person to print and publish any matter related to the inquiry or trial of rape or an offence under Sections 376, 376A, 376B, 376C, 376D, or 376E of the IPC, except with the previous permission of the court. This is subject to maintaining the confidentiality of the names and addresses of the parties, both the victim and the accused,” the Judge observed in his order.
Lawyer Geo Paul, who represented the petitioner in the specific case, said the verdict will ensure the protection of the identity of the accused in sexual offence cases. “It’s an important verdict that equally safeguards the privacy of the accused,” he added.
Advocate T S Sarath stated that the order will effectively put a full stop to media trials involving accused individuals in sexual offence cases. “An accused in a sexual offence case has an equal right to dignity and privacy. Many times, the media conducts trials exposing the identity of the accused, causing severe mental trauma. Even if the accused is acquitted in such cases, the shame and trauma caused by the media trial continue to haunt them,” Sarath said.