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SC highlights need to review guidelines for media reporting in sexual assault cases

SC highlights need to review guidelines for media reporting in sexual assault cases

The Supreme Court Friday said the issue related to guidelines for media reporting in cases of sexual assaults, particularly offences against minors, was required to be dealt with in "great detail".

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta was told that the affidavits filed by media bodies including the Press Council of India (PCI) on action taken against media houses and scribes who have disclosed the identity of victims of sexual assaults, contained "nothing much".

"They (media bodies) are almost saying that they cannot do anything. There is nothing much (in the affidavits)," senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, representing the petitioner who has filed a plea in Muzaffarpur shelter home case, told the bench.

To this, the bench observed, "Yes, they are almost saying so".

"This guidelines issue has to be taken up in great detail," the bench said and posted the matter for hearing in the first week of February.

In a separate case, the court Friday reserved its order on the issue related to interpretation of provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and Contempt of Courts Act which deals with disclosure of identity of victims of sexual assaults and the procedure to be followed by media in reporting these cases.

The court had earlier asked media bodies including the PCI, the Editors Guild and the Indian Broadcasting Federation to file affidavits indicating whether they can inform the police about an offence related to disclosure of the identity of victims of sexual assaults by the media.

It had also asked these bodies to inform the court as to why steps have not been taken for the prosecution of the alleged offenders.

The court had observed that offence of disclosing the identity of victims of sexual assaults has criminal liability, and if the law was violated, action must be taken.

The PCI's counsel had told the court that in cases related to disclosure of the identity of such victims, the power of the Council was limited to censure such publication and they also send their orders to the Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP).

The PCI's counsel had also said that prosecution should be launched in such cases but the Council needed "some more teeth".

The court had earlier said that documents filed before it by the News Broadcasting Standards Authority have "nothing" and it was quite clear from the affidavit filed by the authority that no prosecution was launched against any of the alleged offenders.

It had issued notices to these media bodies to assist the court in the matter which deals with alleged non-compliance of statutory provisions about disclosure of the identity of victims of rape and sexual abuses by the media.

The issue had cropped up when the court was hearing a plea related to Muzaffarpur shelter home where over 30 girls were allegedly raped and sexually exploited.

(With inputs from agencies.)



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