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Plea to protect accused in sexual abuse cases

Topics covered:

  1. Issues related to women.

 

Plea to protect accused in sexual abuse cases

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: sexual abuse cases- need for protection for both victims and accused, concerns over false cases and how to handle them?

 

Context: A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court to frame guidelines to protect the reputation and dignity of persons accused of sexual offences.

 

Concerns:

A person was considered innocent unless proven guilty by a court of law. If a person was falsely accused, his reputation would be lost forever and exposed to public ridicule for no fault of his. This would be a violation of the fundamental right to life enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. It does not only destroy an individual’s life but also creates a social stigma for the family members too.

Disclosure of his identity, especially during trial, would lead to media trial. Besides, considering the wide reach of social media, the person’s name and even that of his family, which might include minors, would be exposed on the Internet. This would be a violation of their fundamental right to privacy.

 

Increased vulnerability:

In present times, where people are in a virtual world, the reputation and integrity of a person is always an easy target to destroy. It would be tragic that the person, even after being found innocent, would continue to be known as a suspected sex offender on social media because once his identity entered the public domain it would become searchable and permanent. The previous identification as a suspect will endure in the public sphere.

 

Need of the hour:

some preventive measures must be taken so as to avoid and to deal with such situations in the interest of justice.

Amend Section 228-A of the Indian penal Code that provides punishment for disclosing the identity of the victims but does not provide any safeguard for protection of the identity and integrity of the accused in case of false accusation.

Court should frame the guidelines like it had earlier framed in Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan to protect the integrity of victim and to safeguard the victim from facing the social stigma.

 

Conclusion:

Supreme Court had on many occasions reinforced that the “right to reputation” is an integral part of Articles 21 and 19(2) of the Constitution of India. Therefore, some preventive measures must be taken to avoid and deal with such situations in the interest of justice.

 

Few incidents:

S.Nambi Narayanan (who is an Indian scientist and aerospace engineer and also awarded India’s third highest civilian award the Padma Bhushan) was falsely charged with espionage and was later on cleared of all charges and had to put up a long fight to save his reputation. However, no amount of compensation could restore what he had lost in the process.

 

Sources: The Hindu.