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Rape accused identity query

New Delhi, Feb. 17: The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on a petition that sought to restrain the media from not only publishing the identity of rape victims but also that of the accused.

A bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and S.A. Bobde agreed to examine the issue in the petition filed by an advocate, Gyan Prakash, who said publishing the name of the accused and victims was an offence under Section 228A of the penal code.

According to the petition, the provision forbids not only disclosing the victim’s name but also the identity of the accused because it could lead to serious prejudice, apart from loss of reputation.

The petition also sought action against three local news channels operating in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for reportedly publishing the names of some persons accused of rape.

Section 228A says anyone who “prints or publishes” any matter that reveals the identity of a person against whom an offence of rape is alleged or found to have been committed (the victim) can be jailed for up to two years and/or fined.

“Whoever prints or publishes the name or any matter which may make known the identity of any person against whom an offence under Section 376, Section 376A, Section 376B, Section 376C or Section 376D is alleged or found to have been committed shall be punished with imprisonment… for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine.”

Section 376 deals with any form of rape.

However, the prohibition will not apply when the name of the victim is disclosed in a judicial order or document.

The exemption from such prohibition also applies to police officers investigating an alleged rape.

A victim can also be named if she herself volunteers to disclose her identity or, if she is dead, her parents or guardians authorise such disclosure. But such disclosure should be with the consent of a registered welfare organisation.

The bench asked the Uttar Pradesh government to respond within four weeks.