High court: TV channel, cops fined for revealing identity of minor rape victim

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday imposed a fine of over Rs 6 lakh on the Delhi Police and a TV channel for having released the name and identity of a minor rape victim in 2005. The court has also held that a media agency could be held liable for the violation of fundamental rights of a person.

Justice Vipin Sanghi of the Delhi High Court directed police and Aaj Tak channel to pay compensation to the girl, who had filed a writ petition in the court through her mother, alleging violation of the right to privacy and confidentiality under Article 21 as well as violation of "norms of journalistic conduct" by Delhi Police, Aaj Tak and a prominent national daily newspaper.

The girl had been raped by her father in 2005, and the details of the FIR were leaked to the media, following which a channel and a newspaper had published news reports with details of the incident, which had also contained information that revealed the identity of the minor girl. The petition had alleged that the girl and her mother were forced to shift to another city to avoid "humiliation" after their identities were revealed.

Holding that the media "owe a duty to the public at large to report news and views which ought to be reported, correctly and wherever necessary, with restraint and caution", the court stressed on the "duty to maintain utmost secrecy and confidence in the matter of identity of a rape victim".

"Such duty stems from the need to prevent social obliteration and humiliation of the victim. The potential of the press and media to cause harm was immense since they "enjoy a position of trust in the society and also because of their reach," the court said.

The court held that there was "gross negligence and dereliction of duty" on part of the Delhi Police, in allowing details of the FIR to be leaked out to the media, while Aaj Tak has been held "liable for gross negligence and, consequent, breach of fundamental right of the petitioner's daughter in telecasting the said programme containing particulars sufficient for the disclosure of the identity of the petitioner's daughter".

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