A Delhi court order imposing a ban on reporting the gangrape case proceedings is pointless and an unreasonable restriction on the media.
The order came on an application filed by Delhi Police, which have come under severe criticism in the wake of the statements made by the
victim's male friend.
Once again, it brings to the fore the tussle between people's right to know and the rationale behind imposing restrictions on the media, particularly in a case that has led to a national outcry and has evoked unprecedented interest worldwide.
"The purpose of in-camera proceedings is to protect the victim and her family from being traumatised and ostracised. But since the victim is no more, there is no necessity for a gag order," says former Delhi HC judge SN Dhingra.
Favouring open court proceedings in the case, he said: "People want to know how capable our judicial system is in delivering justice to victims of such brutal crimes."
Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code imposes a ban on the disclosure of the name of a rape victim. Any violation is punishable with imprisonment up to two years.
Further, Section 327 of the Criminal Procedure Code requires judicial proceedings in rape cases to be conducted in-camera and it is not lawful to publish any related matter, except with the court's permission.
One can't oppose the objective of these provisions that aim to protect the identity of the victim and her family. Except some foreign publications, the media in general refrained from identifying the victim or her family.
Then why this gag order?
The order may defeat the purpose it seeks to achieve. It's not like any other rape case. It has already galvanised public opinion against crimes against women and for speedy justice to victims of sexual assault.
The chief justice has written to all high courts to set up fast-track courts. The president, prime minister and various leaders from across the spectrum have also strongly favoured speedy justice.
For the first time, India is witnessing a mass movement for gender justice and people across the globe are watching how the judiciary handles this case.
Some advocates have already approached District Judge RK Gauba against the gag order. One hopes the order is reversed in public interest.
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