Two media organisations have been charged under sections of the POCSO act for publishing the photograph of the minor rape survivor in the Kottiyoor rape case. The 16-year-old survivor was allegedly raped by a parish priest Robin Vadakkumchery.
Surya TV and an online website, Marunadan Malayali, have been charged under Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code for making public the identity of a rape survivor.
“We have got a complaint from the victim’s father that a certain program in Surya TV and a news copy in the news website carried photographs of the victim, who was a minor at the time of rape. After it appeared in the media the photographs were also making rounds in social media and WhatsApp groups, which is also an offence,” Kelakam Station House Officer Pratheesh told The News Minute.
Police said that charges under POCSO have also been framed against the media organisations as the survivor is a minor.
A news program Kathakalkkappuram in Surya TV also revealed the identity of the survivor by telecasting visuals of her house and family members, apart from showing the photograph of the girl.
There are a number of legal provisions that prohibit the media from publishing the details of a minor, particularly a survivor of rape. Section-228 A of the IPC prohibits disclosing the name of a rape survivor. Section 74 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, prohibits any media from disclosing “the name, address or school or any other particular, which may lead to the identification of a child in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection or a child victim or witness of a crime.”
Section 23 of Chapter V of POCSO, states, "No reports in any media shall disclose, the identity of a child including his name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may lead to disclosure of identity of the child."
The survivor’s father has also registered a complaint with the Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KeSCPCR) regarding the issue.
However, Marunadan Malayali has denied publishing any material revealing the survivor’s identity.
"We have not published any photographs of the victim. The rule clearly says not to publish, we know that and we have never breached it. Not only photographs, we have not published any details that could reveal the identity. This might be a mistake or somebody might have intentionally done this to trouble us," Shajan Skariah, Managing Editor Marunadan Malayali, told TNM.
All 11 accused in the Kottiyoor rape case, including Robin, are on remand. Among the accused are five nuns and another priest, who helped Robin hide his alleged crime.
Father Robin, who was posted at the Church run by the Catholic Diocese of Mananthavady (Wayanad) in Kannur district almost two-and-a-half years ago, also served as the manager of a school attached to the church. The survivor, was a student at the school.
The incident came to light when she gave birth to an infant on February 7 at a private hospital in Kannur. The police say that survivor was admitted to the hospital after she complained of stomach pain. Her parents kept her in the dark about the childbirth and told her that she was operated on for appendicitis.
The case received public attention after Childline officials of the district received an anonymous letter regarding the issue.
Robin Vadakkumchery was then arrested on February 28, while he was trying to escape to Canada.