New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday said it was "unfortunate" that rape victims were being treated as "untouchables" in society while directing that names and identities of victims of rape and sexual assault should not be disclosed or revealed.
A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur directed the print and electronic media not to reveal identity of victims of rape and sexual assault "even in a remote manner".
The apex court said FIRs in cases of rape and sexual assault, including those against minors, should not be put in public domain by police.
In a previous hearing, the top court was told that there was a need to strike a balance between the freedom of the press and the right of a victim to have fair trial in cases of crime against women.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, had told the apex court that the media was running a "parallel trial" in sub-judice matters and it should frame guidelines on how to report the cases of crime against women.
Jaising had also claimed that police was leaking information to the media even before filing the charge sheet before a competent court, which amounted to interference in the administration of justice. She referred to the Kathua gangrape-and-murder case and had claimed that even before the charge sheet was filed in the court, the media had pronounced the decision that some of the accused were innocent and not guilty of the offences.
An eight-year old girl, belonging to a minority nomadic community, was allegedly gangraped and murdered in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
Jaising had referred to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, which deals with disclosure of identity of victims of such offences and the procedure to be followed by the media in reporting these cases, as also the Contempt of Courts Act.
The court had earlier agreed to examine the provisions of law which provide curbs and balances for the media in reporting incidents of sexual assault, including that of minors, after a complaint that there have been "regular violation" of such provisions.
Jaising had earlier said a balance of rights of such victims and that of the media to report such incidents was required, and the apex court should interpret Section 228-A of the IPC (dealing with disclosure of identity of victims of sexual offences) and provision 23 of the POCSO Act which deals with the procedure to be followed by the media along with the Contempt of Courts Act.
The issue had cropped up when the court was hearing a batch of petitions filed after the rape and murder of a paramedic student on December 16, 2012 in New Delhi to support the initiatives on women's safety across the country.