The Bombay High Court has ordered that the names of rape victims will no longer be disclosed in bail orders passed by it and the Sessions Court. Justice RC Chavan on Tuesday directed the registries of both courts to drop victims’ names from all bail orders after a rape victim’s lawyer pointed out the discrepancy to the court.
The court was hearing a bail application made by Ramesh Dhiraj Singh, a film producer who has been accused of raping a 33-year-old Pune woman after promising her a lead role in his upcoming film. Speaking to MiD DAY, the victim’s lawyer Flavia Agnes said, “There are already Supreme Court judgments which prohibit the publication of the victim’s name by media.
But all court judgments are already present in the public domain as they are uploaded on the Internet by the courts themselves. The apex court had taken note of this and ordered that victims’ names should be left out of judgments. But the practice continued during the hearing of bail applications.”
Justice Chavan took note of the situation and ordered, “Bail applications in such cases sometimes refer to victims by their names, which exposes the victim. Therefore in bail applications reference of the victims’ names should be avoided. The registry of this court as well as the Registrar of the Sessions Courts shall ensure that whenever such applications are filed, the names of the victims in the applications are dropped out.”
‘Warned not to go’
MiD DAY had reported on January 16 how the Oshiwara police had arrested Singh for raping a woman after offering her a role in a Marathi film. According to police, Singh had called the woman to a mall in Oshiwara. They had lunch together and the accused told the victim that he wanted to finalise her contract and give her the signing amount.
He told her that his ‘financier’ was in Dahisar and would drop her home after the deal was done. Singh then allegedly took her to a guesthouse and raped her. The court however, granted bail to Singh against a bond of Rs 50,000. At the hearing, the Bombay High Court relied heavily on the statement of one Rahul Dattu, who has recorded a statement before the Magistrate stating he had warned the victim not to accompany Singh.
“Dattu claims to have called her about 12.30 past midnight because of his apprehensions, which is also reflected in the victim’s statement to the police. The victim told Dattu that he should not worry. After being told of the incident, Dattu wanted to take the applicant to task and ask him as to why he behaved in such a nasty fashion,” the court order recorded.
While granting Singh bail against a bond of Rs 50,000, the court observed, “In my view, even if the report from the laboratory implicates the applicant, it would not justify [his] being in custody pending trial in view of the manner in which the incident is alleged to have taken place according to the victim and also in view of Rahul’s statement.”
Section 228A of the Criminal Procedure Code
The Section makes it an offence to publish the names or disclose the identities of victims of rape. The maximum punishment prescribed is a two-year jail term. However, an exception is made if police authorise such a publication for investigation, or if the victim herself authorises it. An exception is also made in favour of the printing of judgments of the High Courts or Supreme Court containing victims’ names.