In an attempt to prevent future incidents where government authorities reveal the identity of a sexual assault survivor, the Madras High Court ordered the government of Tamil Nadu to pay an interim compensation of Rs 25 lakh to the Pollachi survivor for ‘violation of her privacy, dignity and image’.
Justices N Kirubakaran and SS Sundar came down heavily on the Coimbatore Superintendent of Police R Pandiarajan for revealing the total number of videos he received and the number of accused in the first stage of investigation itself. “The irresponsible conduct of the police office is highly condemnable by this Court and it is appropriate to issue direction to the State Government to take disciplinary action against the said police officer,” read the order.
It is not just the SP who revealed the survivor's name but the government in its order handing over the probe to the CBI had not only named the young woman but also disclosed the identity of her brother and even where she studied.
The order came from the Madurai bench of the High Court earlier on Friday, on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by one Ilamugil from Trichy in which he stated that social media plays an important role in our daily lives.
Explaining that though social media has many benefits, it has a lot of disadvantages too, Ilamugil submitted that videos, pictures and audio files related to sexual offences are being circulated on social media. His petition had also stated that the Supreme Court had ordered that the identity of the victim in sexual crimes shall not be revealed in the FIR, court documents or in the media. Violation of this rule shall invite punishment under section 228A of the IPC including imprisonment for a period of 6 months to 2 years.
Adding that the Coimbatore SP had recently revealed the identity of the survivor in the Pollachi sexual assault case, Ilamugil asked the court to order swift completion of the investigation and form separate teams in every district to investigate sexual offences.
He also sought an order directing the investigating teams to follow the guidelines set by the Supreme Court in probing sexual crimes. He further wanted the court to ban the publishing of videos, photos and audio related to violent and sexual crimes on social media.
Hearing the petition, the court ordered the central government to first provide psychological counselling to all the affected women in any town or place other than Pollachi to safeguard their privacy. The judges also directed the state government to withdraw the government order transferring the case to CBI which had details of the survivor and issue a fresh order in its place. Ordering the central and the state governments to respond on the Supreme Court order to set up One Stop Centres to deal with rape cases across the country, the court directed the state government to advertise that circulating the videos of the assault is also an offence.
Apart from paying the compensation, the judges also ordered the Internet Service Providers Association of India to remove all videos related to the Pollachi sexual assault case from the internet. The court also advocated for proper awareness to be created amidst people regarding videos of sexual crimes and the advantages and disadvantages of internet services through school textbooks and college syllabi.