Anonymity Of Victims under POCSO

Calcutta HC: Redact Names in Pleadings To Ensure Anonymity Of Victims under POCSO

The Calcutta High Court issued directions on 18th April 2022, in the case of P.M. vs. The State of West Bengal & Anr. to raise awareness among litigants and other stakeholders and to ensure that the identities of victims of sexual offences, including minor victims under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act [POCSO], 2012, are not disclosed in the pleadings and other records of the court.

Facts leading to the Case:

An appeal has been filed challenging an order of conviction for committing the offence by the accused (Petitioner) under Section 6 (Punishment for aggravated penetrative sexual assault) of the POCSO Act with the minor girl child.

It was found that the appellant had listed the minor victim as a respondent, naming her and revealing her father’s identity.

Observation of the Court:

  • Court found that the appellant had listed the minor victim as a respondent, naming her and revealing her father’s identity. In the case of a minor victim the Court observed that clause (c) of sub-section 2 of section 228A (Disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences) of the Indian Penal Code does not apply, and disclosure of identity can be only made in the best interest of the child and in an appeal against a conviction in which the victim is made a respondent, there should be restrictions on the publication of the victim’s identity.
  • In order to avoid illegal publication of victims, the Hon’ble High Court issued the following practice directions pertaining to the non-disclosure of Identity of victims of sexual offences and offences under the POCSO Act: –
  • No pleading in any proceeding pertaining to offences under sections 376 (Punishment for rape), 376A (Punishment for causing death or resulting in persistent vegetative state of victim), 376AB(Punishment for rape on woman under twelve years of age), 376B (Sexual intercourse by husband upon his wife during separation), 376C(Sexual intercourse by a person in authority), 376D (Gang rape), 376DA (Punishment for gang rape on woman under sixteen years of age), 376DB (Punishment for gang rape on woman under twelve years of age), 376E (Punishment for repeat offenders) of the Indian Penal Code, as well as offences under the POCSO Act, filed before this Court shall disclose the victim’s identity, that is, the victim’s name, parentage, address, or any other information relating to her identity.
  • The victim’s Vakalatnama, which reveals her identity, must be filed in a sealed cover.
  • The victim’s affidavit in the proceeding which is required by law to reveal her identity must be stored under a sealed cover. A redacted copy of the affidavit must be filed as well, and it will be kept as a part of the public records.
  • Unless the Court directs otherwise, redacted copies of pleadings/affidavits, documents, and/or annexures shall be served on the parties to the proceedings.
  • All documents/annexures filed in the proceedings that reveal the victim’s name must be retained in a sealed cover, with redacted copies filed and kept as part of the Court’s public records whenever possible.
  • Only with the approval of the Court may the documents/annexures filed in the proceedings that reveal the victim’s identity and are held in sealed cover be inspected.
  • In the body of the petition, a declaration must be made declaring that the victim’s identity has not been revealed, as stated previously.
  • If a disclosure is made, a declaration must be issued saying that it was made with the victim’s written consent or, if the victim is dead, minor, or of unsound mind, with the victim’s next of kin’s written consent as per sub-section 2 of Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code.
  • In the case of a minor, no disclosure of the victim’s identity shall be made without the Court’s approval and only in the victim’s best interests.
  • Without express order from the Court, Department concerned shall not receive pleadings in any matter pertaining to the aforesaid offences unless they are in conformity to the aforesaid directions.
  • The Court directed the Registrar (IT) to upload the above directions on the official website of the High Court for spreading awareness and to ensure due compliance of section 228A (Disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences, etc) of the IPC and 33(7) (The Special Court shall ensure that the identity of the child is not disclosed at any time during the course of investigation or trial) of the POCSO Act and directed the counsel for the accused to redact the name of the victim and her father from the cause title of the petition as follows, described the victim as ‘x’ (victim) who is represented by her father as portrayed (PW2).
  • To ensure the minimum publication of the identity of the victim it is ordered that the postal cover affixed with the affidavit of service be filed in a sealed cover before this court and shall not be opened except with the permission of the court.

After two weeks, the case to be rescheduled for a second hearing.

– Vaishali Jain, Advocate & Associate – Child Safety at Work & Surbhi Singh

Comments are closed.