HC issues practice directions to ensure confidentiality of sexual offences victims

 In a step to ensure that anonymity and confidentiality of survivors of sexual offences is maintained, the Delhi High Court has issued directions

that their name, parentage and address should not be reflected in documents filed in courts.

The high court, in its practical directions issued through the registrar general, directed that the court registry must carefully scrutinise all filings relating to sexual offences, to ensure anonymity and confidentiality of the prosecutrix/victim/survivor is strictly maintained and the name, parentage, address, social media credentials and photographs of the victim must not be disclosed, including in memo of parties.

The directions have been issued in compliance of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani’s April judgement in which it was held that there is no requirement in law to implead the victim of sexual offences as a party to any criminal proceedings instituted by the State or the accused.

The high court’s practice directions were issued on October 4 in compliance of the April judgement.

It also directed that the registry must ensure that particulars of the victim do not get reflected in the court’s cause list of the court.

“The name, parentage and address of family members of the prosecutrix/victim/ survivor through whom the prosecutrix/victim/survivor could be identified must not be disclosed in the filings, including in the memo of parties, even if they are accused in the case, since this may indirectly lead to identification of prosecutrix/victim/survivor,” it said.

The court said at the stage of scrutiny of filings if the registry finds that the identity credentials of a victim/or survivor are disclosed in the memo of parties or anywhere else, the documents must be returned to the lawyer who has filed it and ensure the details are redacted.

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To obviate the dissemination of identifying particulars to any other person or agency even within the high court, it is directed that all service to be effected upon the victim shall only be done through the Investigating Officer (IO) who shall remain in ‘plain clothes’ to avoid unwarranted attention.

The IO must inform the survivors that they have the right to free legal aid and if the parties wish to cite in court any identifying particulars of the victim, including photographs or social media communications, it shall be brought in ‘sealed cover’ or in a ‘pass-code locked’ electronic folder.

The directions are not intended to be exhaustive and at the stage of scrutiny, the registry is expected to apply its mind to any peculiarities of a given case, it said.

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