Victims' identity must not be disclosed during probe: Bombay HC

 The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said it was not satisfied with the circular issued by Maharashtra government restraining the police from disclosing the identity of accused persons and the victims to the media.

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said it was not satisfied with the circular issued by Maharashtra government restraining the police from disclosing the identity of accused persons and the victims to the media.

The circular covers only the accused but not the victims of the crime and the complainants, a division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka observed during the hearing of a public interest litigation filed by advocate Rahul Thakur.

Adjourning the hearing to October 31, the bench asked the government to come out with a new circular to ensure that the identity of victims and complainants remain undisclosed.

In June this year the court had asked the state to issue a circular asking police not to disclose the names and photographs of the accused, victims and complainants.

The circular was put before the court today.

The court also said the circular should impose restrictions on police with regard to disclosing information obtained during the investigation.

"The quality of investigation will also suffer if a case is constantly under media trial. Even the victim and the witnesses may become scared and that could adversely affect the investigation," remarked justice Oka.

"After the chargesheet is filed, all the details will be in the open. Till then, the police should not disclose them," the judge said.

Government pleader Sandeep Shinde said the central government had already issued a circular that prohibits publishing of photographs of the accused.

Advocate Thakur's PIL contends that "overzealous sections of the media" infringe on fundamental rights of privacy, fair trial and dignity of the accused as well as the victims with undue publicity during the investigation stage.

Police parade the accused before the media and reveal their and their relatives' names which stigmatises the person even before he or she is convicted, it says.

Citing the Supreme Court judgements, Thakur said the right to freedom of speech was not an absolute right but was subject to certain restrictions and the state could impose certain restrictions on the liberty granted to the media.

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