Madras High Court: In a case relating to a petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for directing the media to refrain from disclosing the identity and other particulars of the rape victims of the famous ‘Pollachi sexual abuse and extortion case’, M.Dhandapani, J. observed that since the matter pertains to sexual abuse and sexual violence, all the print and electronic media are restrained from publishing, telecasting or broadcasting any materials pertaining to deposition of the victims or any of the witnesses; the identities of the victims, their family members and the witnesses, either in morphed form or blurred form. Further, restrained the media from publishing any oral, documentary or digital evidence that may be marked during the course of the trial.
In the present case, a weekly magazine, ‘Nakkheeran’ had published materials which the Court has directed to be kept within a closed sphere so that the victims and their family will feel secure and would disclose the true facts during the trial. However, the published materials have given intricate details about the depositions of the victims including their names and the manner in which they came in contact with the accused, thereby putting their lives at risk.
The Court observed that “the 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”. It further viewed that weekly magazine ‘Nakkheeran’ is required to be impleaded in this petition as a respondent, to show cause as to the necessity for publishing the said material, when it has been specifically held by the Court that the Witness Protection Scheme is to be implemented by the State in the interest of the victims and witnesses.
The Court viewed that it did not implead the media to be respondents in the aforesaid petition, as the Court had reposed faith on the media to be mindful of its duty to its citizens and also hoped that media would realize the turmoil which the victims and their family would have gone through in the aftermath of the offence committed against them, which is not only against them, but against the entire humanity.
However, it viewed that “its impressions are mere hallucinations and that 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”.
The Court noted that the magazine has published the names of the victims with their detailed deposition before the investigating officers along with the names of the accused, without thinking that this 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 truth for fear of their lives and that of their family. Further, the Court observed that “this will only lead to the offenders walking out unpunished and ultimately the entire investigative mechanism as also the justice delivery system would be ridiculed not only by the public, but also by the media”. Thus, the Court ordered Nakkheeran Publications and its Editor to be impleaded as party in the case, and further restrained the media from disclosing any more information relating to the victims,witnesses or their families.
The matter will next be taken up on 15.09.2022.
[State v. K. Arulnantham, 2022 SCC OnLine Mad 4391, order dated 02.09.2022]