The Supreme Court today issued notice in a plea seeking guidelines to protect the identity, reputation and integrity of individuals accused of sexual offences, till completion of the investigation.
The petition has been filed by Youth Bar Association of India and Reepak Kansal.
Youth Bar Association of India has submitted that false accusations in sexual offences can destroy the entire life of an innocent person. There have been instances where persons falsely implicated in such cases have even committed suicide, the petitioner has contended.
“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, the petition contends.
“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, it is the petitioner’s case that 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 is stated.
The petition 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.
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 association 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 individuals allegedly accused of sexual offences, till completion of the investigation.