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A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Central government to frame guidelines to protect the identity, reputation and integrity of individual/s accused of sexual offences, till completion of the investigation.
The petition has been filed by Youth Bar Association of India.
In a petition drawn by advocates Sanpreet Singh Ajmani, Kuldeep Rai, Ankur Jain, Emamuddin Azmi and Ashok Dobhal and filed through advocate Piyush Dwivedi, the petitioner has contended that disclosure of the identity of the accused affects his reputation and therefore, violates Article 21.
The petitioner submits that false accusation in sexual offences can destroy the entire life of an innocent person. There have been instances in which persons falsely implicated in such cases have even committed suicide.
“It does not only destroy an individual’s life but creates a social stigma to the family members too.”
Thus, preventive measures need to be taken to prevent such situations.
“Need of the hour demands that some preventive measures must be taken so as to avoid and to deal with such situations in the interest of justice.”
Further, when the accused are named by the media and the public, the person’s reputation takes a beating. Damage to reputation can be significant for people who are incorrectly suspected of having committed a serious crime.
It goes on to contend that when such persons are named, their identity comes in the public domain and becomes searchable and permanent. Even if they are subsequently found innocent by the investigation agency, their “previous identification as a suspect will endure in the public sphere”, the petition states.
“In present times, where people are on virtual world, the reputation and integrity of a person is always an easy target to destroy.”
Interestingly, the petitioner has cited the case of ISRO Scientist Nambi Narayanan. He was falsely charged with espionage and was arrested when he was the senior official at the ISRO.
“A man of such high repute in a society has to fight for safeguarding his reputation and integrity for quite a long time. In his case this Hon’ble court has decided to order a compensation to him to restore his reputation. It is pertinent to mention herein that no amount of compensation can do justice to him for what he and his family has to go through for a long time.”
The petition states that the Supreme Court came forward and framed guidelines in Vishaka and Ors. v. State of Rajasthan to protect the integrity of the victim and to safeguard the victim from facing social stigma. Applying the same principles, guidelines should be framed for safeguarding the integrity and the reputation of the accused who could fall prey to “powerful sections of the society”, the petition states.
The petitioner has also referred to Section 228A(1) of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes punishment for disclosing the identity of victims of sexual offences. The petitioner contends that the said provision is discriminatory since it does not provide for safeguarding the identity of accused persons.
Further, it has been held by the Supreme Court that right to reputation is a facet of the Right to Life under Article 21, the petitioner had submitted.
The petitioner has, therefore, prayed for guidelines to be framed to “protect the identity, reputation and integrity of individual/s allegedly accused of sexual offences, till completion of the investigation by the competent agency”.
Directions have also been sought to be issued to the media (print, electronic and social) not to disclose the identity of individual/s allegedly accused of sexual offences, till completion of the investigation.