New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has directed its Registrar General to transfer the amount deposited by media houses which had revealed the identity of the eight-year-old who was gang-raped and murdered in Kathua district in 2018, to J&K legal services authority (JK SLSA) for sexual assault victims.
“The Registrar General of this court is directed to transmit the amounts so deposited by respondents no.8, 28 (two media houses) and by other respondents (other media houses) in the present case, if any such amount is still lying with the court, to the Victim Compensation Fund maintained by the Jammu and Kashmir State Legal Services Authority for disbursement of funds to the victims/families of the deceased victims of sexual violence,” a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said.
In April 2018, a division bench of the court had taken suo motu cognizance of the publication of photographs and the name of the victim by media houses and issued notices to several of them for disclosing the identity of the minor girl.
Under Section 23 (Procedure for media) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, any person who discloses the identity of a child victim could be awarded a minimum six months imprisonment.
Some media houses, which had revealed the identity of the eight-year-old gang-raped and murdered victim, were directed by the Court to deposit Rs 10 lakh as penalty towards the J&K State's rape victims compensation funds. In compliance with the court direction, the media houses then apologized.
Taking note of the media houses' apology, the Bench had suggested that they give wide publicity to the statutory provisions regarding privacy of victims of sexual offences and punishment for revealing their identities.
In keeping with the earlier court directions, two media houses recently deposited Rs 10 lakh each with the court and others had done so previously.
Deciding on the matter, the court underscored that “the manner in which the incident was reported is contrary to Section 23 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) as well as Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860. The manner of reporting the incident is also against public justice.”
The minor victim had disappeared from near her home in Kathua on January 10, 2018. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
The police's Crime Branch, which probed the case, filed a main chargesheet against seven persons and a separate one against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district.
On June 10, 2019, a special court sentenced three men to life imprisonment, as many others were convicted of destruction of evidence and were awarded five years jail term. One was acquitted.
On November 22 last year, the Supreme Court held that Shubam Sangra, a key accused in the case, was not a minor at the time of the offence and ordered his trial as an adult.
Besides POCSO Act, Section 228A of the IPC also bars publication of identity of a victim of a sexual offence, making any contravention punishable with a maximum of two years imprisonment along with imposition of fine.