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Supreme Court says it will examine laws on media reporting on cases of sexual assault

Lawyer Indira Jaising told the court that parallel media trials were regularly conducted even when legal proceedings were pending.

The Supreme Court on Friday said it would scrutinise the legal provisions on rules for the media while reporting cases of sexual assault, including that of minors, reported PTI. Citing the Kathua case, senior lawyer Indira Jaising told the court that “parallel media trials” were regularly conducted even when proceedings were pending before court.

The matter was raised in connection with the court’s call for suggestions to set up a victim compensation scheme and rules on rehabilitation of victims of sexual assault.

As the amicus curiae, Jaising told the bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, S Abdul Nazeer, and Deepak Gupta that disclosing the identity of a victim of sexual assault infringes upon their privacy and should not be allowed. She referred to related provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

“There is a parallel trial going on in the media in all sensational cases,” Live Law quoted Jaising as saying. “Look at the Kathua matter. Witnesses are being interviewed and the media itself pass judgement, say that the accused are innocent.”

Asking for a balance to be struck, Jaising called for an end to media trials and asked for self-restraint. “We do not want a complete ban on the media, but victim’s identity should be protected,” she said. The bench said it would consider issuing a notice to the Press Council of India to seek its stand.

In a case of girls being allegedly raped at a shelter home in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, the Supreme Court had last week banned the electronic media from telecasting images of minor girls, even in morphed or blurred forms. The court had also expressed concern over the identity of minor rape victims revealed in the media.

Jaising told the bench that a scheme, prepared by the National Legal Services Authority to compensate victims of sexual assault and acid attacks, should be notified by all states within a time frame as the Supreme Court had accepted it. The bench ordered that it should be notified on October 2.

The case will next be heard on September 5.

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