HC issues notices to 5 newspapers in B'pora case

The High Court on Friday took on record the government’s reports that the medical examination of a minor girl allegedly raped at Sumbal in Bandipora district on 8 May has been conducted and that the age of the accused was being determined.

Hearing its suo motu Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan also issued show-cause notice to five newspapers for carrying the picture of the victim.    

The court also directed the YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to remove all materials, posts and publications which tend to disclose the identity and name of the victim, saying it should be ensured no such material is uploaded on their channels.

The directions came after advocate Farah Bashir as amicus curiae furnished the information the court had sought regarding disclosure in the media of girl’s identity.

The court asked its registry to issue notice to the Kashmir Observer, Kashmir Vision, Kashmir Glory,  Daily Afaaq and Daily Ilhaaq to show cause as to why action be not taken against them for the violations of Section 23 of POCSO Act, returnable on 28 May.       

The amicus also drew attention of the court to Section 44 of the POCSO Act of 2018, which makes the government duty-bound to make the children and their parents and guardians besides the general public aware about the provisions of the Act through mass media publicity.

The court ordered that the copies of the reports filed by the amicus as also by the senior additional advocate general BA Dar should be provided to advocate Shafaqat Nazir, counsel for the victim. 

In his report, the IGP Kashmir said the age determination of the accused is underway. The court said the same should conform to the requirement of Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2013 and the Rules framed there under.   

The report filed by Principal Secretary to Government, Health and Medical Education Department, which the court took on record, indicated that  the victim was initially medically examined on 8 May by Dr Ghazala, Medical Officer at Community Health Centre, Sumbal, and subsequently  referred to SKIMS Medical College Bemina here.

While the victim was examined and a series of investigations were conducted at SKIMS, the reports were handed over to the police authorities. “Certain articles which were seized, were also handed over to the police for further investigation,” the report said.   

The victim, the report said,  was given proper medical treatment and was in a stable condition and provided with psychiatric counseling as well. 

The court also directed the Information Department to place before it the report regarding the measures taken in terms of Section 44 of J&K POCSO. 

Meanwhile, the court also asked the Member Secretary, J&K State Legal Services Authority to place before it an action plan and proper guidelines to ensure linkage between the police stations and the offices of the Legal Services Authority.   

The court issued the direction to ensure supply of information regarding any case of sexual violence immediately by the police authorities to the legal services authorities.  “This information can be transmitted using SMSs, WhatsApp, email or telephones”.  

“The Legal Services Authority shall ensure legal aid to a victim right from the beginning i.e., from the stage of lodging of complaint and registration of the case; medical examination; recording of statement; throughout the trial and till the end of the case,” the court said.

While the court directed the Legal Services Authority to ensure that proper medical treatment was also administered to the victim, it asked the authority to release compensation under the Victim of Compensation Scheme at the earliest, preferably within 24 hours of an incident of sexual violence being reported. “A proper protocol in this regard shall be placed before this court within ten days from today,” the court said.