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Published : June 15, 2015 | Author : Rajyashri B
Category : Media laws | Total Views : 4520 | Rating :

Rajyashri B
Associate Advocate, SNG & Partners

Media and Victims of Sexual Assault

The media is the gatekeeper and watch dog of the society. The media acts as multifaceted institution with multiple activities.

It takes the message simultaneously from all the parties involved and builds the opinion on an issue, with definitely threatens the establishment from violating rights with the growth of the number of news channels and in increasing popularity of" breaking news" Electronic Media has come to play a major role in stirring public opinion and consciousness public advocacy outside the court through well- established mechanism like lobbying, negotiations and mobilization of public opinion has been effectively undertaken by the media.

The current trend of media on reporting cases commonly known as “Trial by media” has witnessed the sensation of self- manifested stories, half- baked truth resulting in the violation of right of individuals, resulting media reporting transforming into media circus.

Trial by media is a phrase popular in the last few decades to describe the impact of television and print media coverage on a case by creating a wide spread perception of guilt on part of accuse regardless of any verdict in a court of law and hence the accuse is held guilty even prior to his trial. The blatantly violate the code is sell their story and boost their TRP, leaving far reaching injury to the reputation of the accused. The media involves itself so intensely and during such high publicity court cases the media sensationalizes the case and provokes atmosphere of public hysteria which not only makes a free and fair trial impossible but also maligns in the reputations of the accused to such degraded level that their rest of life comes under public- hatred and had scrutiny.

Suspects and accused apart, even victim and witnesses suffer from excessive publicity and invasion of their privacy rights.

On the other facet, the trial by media interferes with the administration of justice and tends to lower the authority of courts and finally hampering the functioning of democracy because an independent judiciary to dispense justice without fear or favour is necessary and it strength is the faith of the public in general in that institution.

Further the media meddles with into the investigation thereby, misdirecting the investigation or hindering the functioning of investigating agencies.
Examples:The media has effectively undertaken the cause of justice for the cases of Jessica Lall, Priyadarshini Mattoo, Nitish Katera, BMW case, Arushi murder case and many more simultaneously, it has on one hand without considering about the inherent or intended effect interfered with the rights of people involved in the case and on the other hand tried to usurp the prerogative of the courts to try the cases.

Sexual Assault and Violence Against Women

Violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide, in all socio-economic and educational classes. It cuts across cultural and religious barriers, impeding the right of women to participate fully in society. Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages and female circumcision. All are violations of the most fundamental human rights.

In a statement to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September 1995, the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, said that violence against women is a universal problem that must be universally condemned. But he said that the problem continues to grow.

The Secretary-General noted that domestic violence alone is on the increase. Studies in 10 countries, he said, have found that between 17 per cent and 38 per cent of women have suffered physical assaults by a partner.
In the Platform for Action, the core document of the Beijing Conference, Governments declared that:
"violence against women constitutes a violation of basic human rights and is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace".

Assault or Force to Women

Sexual assault and abuse is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including:
• Inappropriate touching
• Vaginal, anal, or oral penetration
• Sexual intercourse that you say no to
• Rape
• Attempted rape
• Child molestation

Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Examples of this are voyeurism (when someone watches private sexual acts), exhibitionism (when someone exposes him/herself in public), incest (sexual contact between family members), and sexual harassment. It can happen in different situations: in the home by someone you know, on a date, or by a stranger in an isolated place.

Rape is a common form of sexual assault. It is committed in many situations — on a date, by a friend or an acquaintance, or when you think you are alone. Educate yourself on “date rape” drugs. They can be slipped into a drink when a victim is not looking. Never leave your drink unattended — no matter where you are. Attackers use date rape drugs to make a person unable to resist assault. These drugs can also cause memory loss so the victim doesn’t know what happened. Rape and sexual assault are never the victim’s fault — no matter where or how it happens.

Offences against Women Under Indian Penal Code

The offences are of various types. They find mention in many enactments. These under- mentioned provisions are enumerated in Indian Penal Code, 1860:
• Section 304-B - dowry death
• Section 354 - Assault or criminal force to woman
• Section 361 - kidnapping from lawful guardianship
• Section 366 - kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman
• Section 372 - selling minor for purposes of prostitution
• Section 376 - rape
• Section 376-A - intercourse by a man with his wife during separation
• Section 376-B - intercourse by public servant with woman in his custody
• Section 376-D - intercourse by any member of the hospital with any woman in that hospital
• Section 494 - remarriage
• Section 498 - enticing or taking away or detain a married woman
• Section 498-A - dowry cruelty
These are the main offences under the IPC against women. Certain offences are general against all women and certain offences are applicable in respect of married women.
Section 375 - Sexual Assault:
Sexual assault means –
(a) The introduction (to any extent) by a man of his penis, into the vagina (which term shall include the labia majora), the anus or urethra or mouth of any woman or child–
(b) the introduction to any extent by a man of an object or a part of the body (other than the penis) into the vagina(which term shall include the labia majora) or anus or urethra of a woman
(c) the introduction to any extent by a person of an object or a part of the body (other than the penis) into the vagina(which term shall include the labia majora) or anus or urethra of a child.
(d) manipulating any part of the body of a child so as to cause penetration of the vagina (which term shall include labia majora) anus or the urethra of the offender by any part of the child's body.
The apex court in State of Punjab v. Major Singh 1967 AIR 63, while dealing with section 354 had interpreted the term 'women' denoting female of any age. It further held that an offence which does not amount to rape may come under the sweep of section 354, IPC.

In this context the decision rendered in the case of State v. Musa 2010-Ohio-318 is worth noticing. The aforesaid offence caught the eye of the nation when a senior police officer misbehaved with another senior officer belonging to the IAS cadre. The lady officer was slapped before the members of the elite society. Their Lordships (Supreme Court) observed that the observations made in the FIR were neither absurd nor inherently improbable. Finally the accused was acquitted.

In Rupen Deo Bajaj v. Kanwar Pal Singh Gill 1996 AIR 309, 1995 SCC (6) 194, the Supreme Court said that the offence under this section should not be treated lightly as it is quite a grave offence. In certain western countries privacy to person and even privacy to procreation are regarded as very sacrosanct rights and if this offence is studied in that prospect the offence would clearly show that it affects the dignity of women and, therefore, the accused of this offence, when proved, should be appropriately dealt with.

In People's Union for Democratic Rights v. Police Commissioner (1989) 4 SCC 730, Delhi, Police Headquarter and another, the supreme court after holding that the accused was guilty of offence under section 354 of IPC, awarded, to the victim, compensation which is to be recovered from the salary of the guilty officers.

The union cabinet Thursday gave its nod to replace the term 'rape' with 'sexual assault' in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 in order to widen the scope of this heinous crime.
If this amendment is passed by parliament then rape will become gender neutral as it has been treated as crime against women and children.

At present, the offence is defined under section 375 of the IPC, which deals with a crime where a man is said to commit 'rape' in case he has sexual intercourse with a woman against her will.

The cabinet also approves amendments in other proposals including making 'stalking' and 'acid attacks' specific offences, raising age of consent for sex from 16 to 18 years, preventing rape accused from questioning the character of victims and harsher punishment for custodial rape also got the Cabinet's nod.

The bill proposes that sexual intercourse by a man with his wife under 16 years of age is not sexual assault. The age of consent has been raised from 16 years to 18 years in case of sexual assault and the punishment will be minimum seven to 10 years, said officials.

Media Reporting of Sexual Assault Victims

Sexual assault is highly prevalent in our society. Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported offences. Many victim/survivors do not speak out about it because of fear and shame, among other reasons.
Victim blaming attitudes are still prevalent, and there is a lack of community understanding about the circumstances in which sexual assault occurs, and the impact it has on victim/survivors.

Research has found that a significant portion of the community holds attitudes and beliefs that justify, excuse, minimise or hide physical or sexual violence. Community attitudes that support violence may influence:
• the behavior of perpetrators of sexual assault - by helping to promote, excuse or ignore problematic behaviour;

• community responses to people who have been sexually assaulted, including whether their disclosure will be believed; and

• whether or not victim/survivors recognise their experience as being sexual assault (e.g., because they think that “real” sexual assault is committed by a stranger), and whether they tell people about their experience, because they fear receiving a negative response.

The framing of a news report can either:
• confirm the acceptance of violence and misconceptions; or
• foster supportive attitudes towards victims/survivors.
Changing social attitudes to sexual violence is a key priority of prevention programs. Responsible and ethical media reporting of sexual assault can support this goal.

Freedom of Media Vis-À-Vis Responsible Journalism

The strength and importance of media in a democracy is well recognized. Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, which gives freedom of speech and expression includes within its ambit, freedom of press. The existence of a free, independent and powerful media is the cornerstone of a democracy, especially of a highly mixed society like India. Media is not only a medium to express once feelings, opinions and views, but it is also responsible and instrumental for building opinions and views on various topics of regional, national and international agenda. The pivotal role of the media is its ability to mobilize the thinking process of millions. The increased role of the media in today’s globalized and tech-savvy world was aptly put in the words of Justice Hand of the United States Supreme Court when he said, "The hand that rules the press, the radio, the screen and the far spread magazine, rules the country".

Democracy is the rule of the people. A system which has three strong pillars. But as Indian society today has become somewhat unstable on its 3 legs- the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, the guarantee of Article 19 (1)(a) has given rise to a fourth pillar- media. It plays the role of a conscious keeper, a watchdog of the functionaries of society and attempts to attend to the wrongs in our system, by bringing them to the knowledge of all, hoping for correction. It is indisputable that in many dimensions the unprecedented media revolution has resulted in great gains for the general public. Even the judicial wing of the state has benefited from the ethical and fearless journalism and taken suo motu cognizance of the matters in various cases after relying on their reports and news highlighting grave violations of human rights. The criminal justice system in this country has many lacunae which are used by the rich and powerful to go scot-free. Figures speak for themselves in this case as does the conviction rate in our country which is abysmally low at 4 percent. In such circumstances the media plays a crucial role in not only mobilizing public opinion but bringing to light injustices which most likely would have gone unnoticed otherwise.

However, there are always two sides to a coin. With this increased role and importance attached to the media, the need for its accountability and professionalism in reportage can not be emphasized enough. In a civil society no right to freedom, howsoever invaluable it might be, can be considered absolute, unlimited, or unqualified in all circumstances. The freedom of the media, like any other freedom recognized under the constitution has to be exercised within reasonable boundaries. With great power comes great responsibility. Similarly, the freedom under Article 19(1) (a) is correlative with the duty not to violate any law.

Every institution is liable to be abused, and every liberty, if left unbridled, has the tendency to become a license which would lead to disorder and anarchy. This is the threshold on which we are standing today. Television channels in a bid to increase their TRP ratings are resorting to sensationalized journalism with a view to earn a competitive edge over the others. Sting operations have now become the order of the day. They are a part of the hectic pace at which the media is evolving, carrying with every sting as much promise as risk. However, though technology cannot be thwarted but it has its limits. It can not be denied that it is of practical importance that a precarious balance between the fundamental right to expression and the right to ones privacy be maintained. The second practice which has become more of a daily occurrence now is that of Media trials. Something which was started to show to the public at large the truth about cases has now become a practice interfering dangerously with the justice delivery system. Both are tools frequented by the media. And both highlight the enormous need of what is called ‘responsible journalism’.

Media’s Responsibility towards the Victim

The media, whether it is newspaper, radio, or television, has a history of insensitive treatment toward victims. Photos of a victim’s blood on the street, images of body bags, and TV cameras at funerals trying to interview grieving parents are all things that happen too often. Do we really need to see these images? Does hearing the gory details of a brutal murder enhance our understanding of the story or its larger issues? Probably not, yet these are images we are inundated with daily.

While some victims report a favourable experience with the media, other victims describe a painful and draining experience. The sensitivity the victim receives will of course depend on the individual(s) the victim has to deal with. The media can intensify the feelings of violation and the loss of control that many victims feel. Some of the most common complaints from victims concerning media are:
• interviews at inappropriate times, such as at funerals,
• footage/photographs of crime scenes,
• interviewing/photographing child victims,
• naming the victim and providing access to them,
• discussion of gruesome details,
• inappropriate/aggressive questioning,
• printing information that would negatively impact the victim’s credibility,
• glorifying the violent act or the offender and,
• blaming the victim for the crime.

There is no need for any of these things. News reports should print the substantiated facts. Does the public really have the right to know the specific details of a murder victim’s last moments alive? How will this better their understanding of the crime that has been committed?

Victims deserve to have some rights when it comes to contact with the media. While legislators have always left it up to the media to police themselves, many would argue that the media has done little to set guidelines for themselves. In fact, the media has no formal training or policy designed to teach reporters and photographers how to approach victims appropriately. Some of the rights that victims should have available to them during their dealings with the media include the right to:

• grieve in private,
• say no to interviews if the victim so wishes,
• select a spokesperson/advocate to deal with the media,
• select the time and place for any interviews,
• request a specific reporter,
• refuse a specific reporter,
• release a written statement in lieu of an interview,
• exclude children from interviews or harassment,
• refuse to answer any questions or avoid any topic,
• demand a correction when a mistake is made and,
• ask that cameras/reporters not attend a funeral or the victim’s home, or show offensive images on television.

None of these rights would interfere with the media’s ability to get the basic facts about a news story. The public and the truth would not suffer due to these rights.
There are several simple things that the media could do to make things easier on victims and their families, such as:
• present both sides of the story fairly,
• treat the victim(s) with respect and dignity,
• avoid gruesome/inappropriate photos,
• leave the families alone while they are grieving, i.e. funerals,
• respect their privacy and wishes,
• do not humiliate or paint the victim in a bad light just to create news,
• do not glorify/sensationalize violence,
• leave graphic details out,
• do not show the victims blood or a body bag.

Fortunately, the criminal justice system has taken steps to ensure the protection of victim’s identity through publication bans. This is particularly true for victims of sexual assault as well as child victims/witnesses. When the criminal justice system places a publication ban on the identity of the victim (or witnesses if they are children), the media are no longer privy to that information and cannot legally publish those details. However, the media can report anything else they want about the victim, as long as it is not protected by the publication ban.

Crime in The News

One reason that is almost always cited for the inclusion of crime details and personal information (either positive or negative) about the victim or offender is that it gives the story newsworthiness. Media outlets include the graphic details of a crime because they add “sensation” to the story and therefore make the story more likely to sell. For example, when a child is the victim of a crime, the story automatically becomes more newsworthy because children are not as likely as young adults to be victimized, and the emotional reaction leads to more interest for news. When a crime is particularly heinous or brutal, or if there were multiple victims, the media is more likely to report it. Unfortunately, because these types of crimes are more likely to be published, society’s view of crime becomes skewed. The most reported crimes tend in fact to be the less common types. This is very concerning because people believe that crimes rates are higher and more violent than they actually are, giving the public a sense of disorder. By reporting most often on the most violent of crimes the media does “sell” their stories but they also lead the public to believe that they have a higher risk of being victimized than reality.

The press is prohibited from reporting the details of some cases, particularly the names of child victims and witnesses and adult sexual assault victims. This is done to protect the victims. If the offender’s identify would lead to the identification of the victim (i.e. father-daughter incest), the offender’s name may not be published either. Publication bans have both positive and negative effects, particularly for sexual assault victims, no matter how well intended they are. For example, it is quite possible that the publication of sexual assault victims’ names could discourage other victims from coming forward out of fear of being identified. However, some argue that keeping the names of the victims a secret only adds to the shame the victim experiences, and that publishing their names would show the public that sexual assault victims have nothing to hide. In fact, many sexual assault victims want their names published.

Victim Blaming

Sometimes, the details that are reported about a crime, the offender, and the victim seem to infer that the victim was in some way responsible for their own victimization. Sexual assault is a crime for which the victim may be perceived as guilty as the offender. One study (Costa & Anastasio, 2004) found that they way the media reports on crime affects the reader’s feelings of empathy or blame towards the victim. These researchers state that reporting details about what a victim was wearing or their height and weight trivializes their victimization and implies that the victim had in some way instigated the crime against them. Mentioning that a woman had endured years of abuse by her husband prior to him murdering her prompts blame of the victim because she failed to leave the abusive situation earlier.

Trial by Media: A Legal Dilemma Resolved With Reference To Jessica Lal Case

Media is regarded as one of the pillars of democracy. Media has wide ranging roles in the society. Media plays a vital role in moulding the opinion of the society and it is capable of changing the whole viewpoint through which people perceive various events. The media can be commended for starting a trend where the media plays an active role in bringing the accused to hook. Freedom of media is the freedom of people as they should be informed of public matters. It is thus needless to emphasis that a free and a healthy press is indispensable to the functioning of democracy. In a democratic set up there has to be active participation of people in all affairs of their community and the state. It is their right to be kept informed about the current political social , economic and cultural life as well as the burning topics and important issues of the day in order to enable them to consider to form broad opinion in which they are being managed, tackled and administered by the government and their functionaries. To achieve this objective people need a clear and truthful account of events, so that they may form their own opinion and offer their own comments and viewpoints on such matters and issues and select their future course of action. The right to freedom of speech and expression in contained in article 19 of the constitution. However the freedom is not absolute as it is bound by the sub clause (2) of the same article. However the right it freedom and speech and expression does not embrace the freedom to commit contempt of court.

The media again come in focus in its role in the trial of Jessica lal murder case. The concept of media trial is not a new concept. The role of media was debated in the Priyadarshini Mattoo case and likewise many other high profile cases. There have been numerous instances in which media has been accused of conducting the trial of the accused and passing the ‘verdict’ even before the court passes its judgment. Trial is essentially a process to be carried out by the courts. The trial by media is definitely an undue interference in the process of justice delivery. Before delving into the issue of justifiability of media trial it would be pertinent to first try to define what actually the ‘trial by media’ means. Trial is a word which is associated with the process of justice. It is the essential component on any judicial system that the accused should receive a fair trial.

• The newspapers and the other media channels have quite been rejoicing over their ‘success’ in bringing Jessica lal to justice. The trial court had acquitted Manu Sharma of all the charges depending upon the obvious lacunae in the prosecution case. The High Court however reversed the trial court judgment. The High Court has interpreted the evidence given by the witnesses differently as clear from the following sentence:
• “The trial court grossly erred in the manner of appreciation of testimonies of the said witnesses by reading into the said testimony what was not there. The key witnesses’ evidence which did not exist, for instance, while dealing with PW-20, the trial court arrived at a factually wrong finding, not borne out from the evidence on record, to the effect that she thought that he had fired a shot at Jessica Lal and that she was not an eye witness.”
• Basically what the high court did was do so just undo what the trial court had done.

• “The testimony of PW-6, Malini Ramani, has been discarded by the trial court being of little importance. since she was not an eye witness.However, she is certainly a witness to identifying Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma along with four or five persons present at the Tamarind Court as also having asked her for whisky and later misbehaving with her. We find it quite strange that at one stage the trial court has returned a categorical finding that four accused were present inside Tamarind Cafe and that finding has been given only on the evidence of PWs 1, 6, 20 and 24, yet their evidence has been doubted and that too without even making real analysis of their evidence.”

• The High Court held Beena Ramani’s testimony to be clinching evidence against the accused. Then the court proceeded to view the testimony given by the other witnesses in the light of in its own interpretation placed upon the statement of Beena Ramani.

• “This witness was cross-examined by counsel for Sidhartha Vashishta @ Manu Sharma, but to no meaningful end. In other words, her testimony remained unchallenged. The trial court while dealing with this witness has held that this witness does not further the case of the Prosecution as the witness was not an eye witness to the occurrence but a witness to the presence of Sidhartha Vashishta @ Manu Sharma, Amardeep Singh Gill,Alok Khanna and Vikas Yadav at the Qutub Colonnade. The trial court also held that the deposition of this witness was vague since she thought that Manu Sharma was carrying a gun and also felt that he may have shot Jessica Lal. The Court also held that mere feelings were not enough and did not mean that Sidhartha Vashisht @ Manu Sharma had actually fired a shot at Jessica Lal. The trial court further went totally wrong in holding that PW-20 had admitted not seeing Sidhartha Vashisht firing a shot at Jessica Lal, but it was only her feeling. With great respect to the learned Judge, we find this is 'a complete misreading of evidence'. There is no suggestion let alone an admission on the part of PW-20, Beena Ramani, that she had not seen the accused Sidhartha Vashisht firing a shot at Jessica Lal.”

• The court found the testimony of Beena Ramani alone enough for convicting Manu Sharma for the murder of Jessica Lal. If we try to see through the judgment of the High Court we can see that the high court is proceeding with the assumption that Manu Sharman is guilty. The high court links all the evidence together and does not take into account the various lacunae in the prosecution case. The court has clearly been influenced by the popular opinion and the media publicity of the case.

• If we look at the various comments in the newspapers after the trial of the judgment the whole thing becomes crystal clear. Even before the trial started the media started naming Manu Sharma as an accused in the Jessica lal murder case. His photographs were flashed across the media and created practical difficulties in the test identification parade of the accused persons. This point has also been pondered over by the high court in its judgment.

• The question that arises at this moment is that why was Manu Sharma acquitted by the court and then again convicted by the High Court on the basis of same facts. First we shall deal with as to why the trial court had to acquit Manu Sharma. If we look at the evidence the whole thing becomes clear. The car he came in to reach the restaurant was not recovered on the spot: the court does not know how he got there. The weapon he used was never recovered: the court cannot equate the fatal bullets with the gun he owns. Actually, the court does not even know if one gun or two guns were used in the shooting. The court has no site plan to help it understand where the shooter stood, where the empty cartridges were found or where Jessica fell. The restaurant floor was washed clean: the court does not know if there ever was a pool of blood. Indeed, there was no hard evidence of any celebration or party at the place: the booze bottles were gone, so why would Manu Sharma kill another guest? The post mortem report is way short on cause of death details. There are no eyewitnesses: no one saw the shooter. The man recording the first information report says he does not understand his own report because he is not particularly good with written Hindi (though we know he can speak well enough). Evidence-collection in the case has been seriously botched; the holes would take some filling. We don't have a chain of circumstances to connect Manu Sharma to the killing. Are we going to send a man to the gallows just because the police arrested the man? Evidence-collection in the case has been seriously botched; the holes would take some filling. The evidence isn't going to now appear just because the High Court has the power to introduce additional evidence.

• The Judge possibly believed that if said facts were inconsistent and did not offer conclusive proof of the guilt of the accused, he was bound to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused. Prima facie, such a strictly judicial perception seems unexceptionable.

• However, persons well versed with the Cr.P.C. would know that Section 311 invests in the Judge the prerogative to summon suo moto more material witnesses in addition to those produced by the prosecution. This can be done at any stage of the trial. The Judge has also the authority to recall and re-examine any person already examined.

• Section 311 is a potent weapon in the hands of a Judge who is confronted with a number of witnesses reneging on their previous statements to the police. Public interest demanded that the trial Judge strain every nerve of the law to arrive at the truth. All reports indicate that Judge Bhayana did not appreciate the significance of the grave crime that had taken place and his own moral responsibility to arrive at the truth. Viewed in this light, the failure is not only that of the police but of the trial Judge as well.[3] The reasons cited by the judge behind decision[4] are:
• Three key witnesses — model-turned actor Shayan Munshi, one Karan Rajput and electrician Shiv Dass had turned hostile. They re-tracted their initial statement given to the Delhi Police. The weapon of murder was never recovered from the place of the crime. The CFSL[5], which examined the bullets —one recovered from the spot and the other lodged in Jessica’s body — found they were not fired from the same weapon.

• The above reasons basically compelled the judge to let go of the accused and once again put forth the loopholes in our legal justice system. It showed the inefficiency and lack pf credibility in our Police force and also how easy it is for the ‘high class’ people to buy their freedom.

• It is now quite clear that there was not adequate evidence to nail Manu Sharma in this case. Even in the lack of evidence in this case Manu Sharma was held guilty by the Delhi High Court. There is a clear influence of media as will become clear from some examples of Media Coverage given below. The coverage of the media is noteworthy in this case. Sify reported the incident as “Jessica Lall: Murder in jungle of Indian justice.” Tehelka: reported that: The trial court gave Manu the benefit of doubt on his version that the Tata Safari was recovered from Karnal. The police says the ‘court grossly erred’ because the seizure memo records a Noida recovery “Is there any hope Jessica will get justice? Many do hope — and groups are promising to keep the campaign for justice alive — that both the police and the courts will ensure what every outraged voice is demanding: justice for Jessica, and thereby a change in the criminal justice system.” The Delhi Police has finally gone in appeal against a trial court judgement that outraged the nation. But will the law continue pushing for justice once public focus shifts from the case?” “Justice for Jessica. Is it realistic to expect convictions in this high-profile murder case?” Jessica Lal Case: Justice not served

Steps Taken By Other States To Protect Victims

Many states have laws to protect the confidentiality of victims of crime. Most of these laws relate to specific groups of victims: sexual assault victims, domestic violence victims, abused or neglected elderly or disabled adults, missing persons, hate crime victims, and child victims. Confidentiality laws exist to encourage the reporting of offenses, and to prevent the re-victimization of the crime victim through publicity, unwarranted intrusion upon the victim's privacy, and insensitive treatment by the media. (All statutes discussed in this summary are current through 1992 unless otherwise indicated. Source: National Center for Victims of Crime, Legislative Database.

States may restrict the release of the name or other identifying information about the victim. More common is the confidentiality of the victim's address or phone number. Laws also exist to protect financial, medical, employment and other records. States have laws regarding the release of information by courts, law enforcement, medical facilities, social service agencies and other government agencies. Often, government funding for victim services such as rape crisis centers or domestic abuse shelters is conditioned on the maintenance of the confidentiality of their clients. There are state laws that prohibit the media from publication or broadcast of a victim's identity, photo, address or similar identifying information. South Dakota establishes a civil action for damages for publicizing or broadcasting the name, picture, address or identification of any child victim or other person involved in a child abuse proceeding. In contrast, Pennsylvania's law only states that the legislature "urges the news media to use restraint" in revealing the identity or address of child victims. Those laws provide the battleground between a victim's right to privacy and the First Amendment right to freedom of the press, and are often the subject of legal battles. (For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court, in The Florida Star v. B.J.F., 57 U.S.L.W. 4816 (S.Ct. 1989), held it was a violation of the First Amendment to allow a rape victim to recover money damages where her name was published in violation of state law.

Privacy Rights of Sexual Assault Victims
In many states, the identity and the address of a victim of sexual assault is confidential. Many states prohibit the publication of such information. These laws exist in part to encourage the reporting of an offense which has historically carried much stigma to the victim. States such as Alaska provide that a sexual assault victim will be referred to in all public court records by her initials. In Texas, the victim is given a pseudonym on request to the court (although the victim's name is still released to the defendant and the defense attorney). Thereafter, the victim may not be required to disclose her or his name, address or phone number. In West Virginia, the identity of a sexual assault victim may not be released prior to an indictment. After indictment, a minor victim may still have his or her identity protected upon request to the court. Nevada law creates a civil action for damages for the disclosure of confidential information regarding a sexual assault victim7.

Privacy Rights of Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims
Privacy protection for domestic violence and stalking victims is a growing legislative trend. States like Pennsylvania are giving individuals who have been the victims of domestic violence or stalking the option of blocking their phone numbers from being revealed through the popular telephone caller identification services sometimes referred to as "Caller-ID." With the passage of the Driver Protection Act as a part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (commonly referred to as The Crime Bill) more and more states are tightening their policies concerning the release of information from voter registration and department of motor vehicles records. Statutes prohibiting the disclosure of the address and location of domestic violence shelters can also be found in a number of states.
There are exceptions to the confidentiality laws. A state may permit the defendant or the defense attorney to have access to the information. It may allow a victim services agency to have access to certain information in order to provide services to the victim or to the victim's family. Most states' paroling authorities keep victim impact statements confidential from inmates and/or their counsel. States often allow researchers access to confidential files, although the law ordinarily requires that the information identifying the victim(s) be deleted first. All states have some sort of mandatory abuse reporting law, which is not changed by the existence of a confidentiality requirement8.

Counsel-Client Privilege
Additionally, many laws provide a "privilege" between professionals and their clients, protecting any communications between them. These range from the traditional, doctor-patient, attorney-client privileges, to the newer privileges protecting communications between rape crisis or domestic violence counselors and their clients. Most of the privileges do not cover things such as child abuse a counselor who learns of such abuse is required by law to report it. However, the privilege between attorney and client, and between priest and confessor, do not usually have such exceptions. The privilege between psychiatrist and patient is subject to another important exception. If the patient makes a realistic threat to cause harm to an identifiable person, the psychiatrist is under a duty to take certain action. In most states this includes warning the targeted individual or reporting the patient's statement to the police, but in some states it may be fulfilled by initiating involuntary commitment proceedings. The area of a victim's right to privacy continues to be an important one, and legislatures are devoting increased attention to the matter. To find out what confidentiality rights exist in your state, visit your local law library or contact your state Attorney General or state legislator9.

Media is regarded as one of the pillars of democracy. Media has wide ranging roles in the society. Media plays a vital role in moulding the opinion of the society and it is capable of changing the whole viewpoint through which people perceive various events. The media can be commended for starting a trend where the media plays an active role in bringing the accused to hook. Freedom of media is the freedom of people as they should be informed of public matters. It is thus needless to emphasis that a free and a healthy press is indispensable to the functioning of democracy. In a democratic set up there has to be active participation of people in all affairs of their community and the state. It is their right to be kept informed about the current political social , economic and cultural life as well as the burning topics and important issues of the day in order to enable them to consider to form broad opinion in which they are being managed, tackled and administered by the government and their functionaries. To achieve this objective people need a clear and truthful account of events, so that they may form their own opinion and offer their own comments and viewpoints on such matters and issues and select their future course of action. The right to freedom of speech and expression in contained in article 19 of the constitution. However the freedom is not absolute as it is bound by the sub clause (2) of the same article. However the right it freedom and speech and expression does not embrace the freedom to commit contempt of court.

But when it comes to dealing with the victims of sexual assault, the media should take special care while dealing with them. As it is, the victim of sexual assault undergo immense mental and emotional pressure, the insensitivity by the media while reporting their case can damage the reputation and the state of the victim. Victims have a right to privacy when it comes to disclosure of their name and ither details. Therefore, the media shall maintain a balance and take special care while launching any case of sexual assault in the society
1. Trial by media, National Bar Association of India; http://www.nationalbarindia.org/articles/54/trial-by-media-a-legal-dilemma/
2. Sexual Assault - Womenshealth.gov. January 2005. Archived from the original on 24 Oct 2008.
3. Sexual Assault factual sheet ; http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/sexual-assault.cfm#a
4.Freedom of press vis-à-vis responsible journalism http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/fre_pre_v.htm
5.Victims of violence http://www.victimsofviolence.on.ca/rev2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=352&Itemid=42
7. Beatty, David. (1994, April 14). "Protect Motorists' Privacy: Limit Access to DMV Record Information." USA Today, Guest Editorial.
8. Direct Marketing Association, Inc. (1993). Privacy: The Key Issue of the 90's. Washington, DC.
9. Horowitz, Robert and Howard Davidson, eds. (1984). Legal Rights of Children Family Law Series. Colorado Springs, CO: Shepard's/McGraw-Hill, Inc.

The author can be reached at: Rajyashri@legalserviceindia.com

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