The Bombay High Court has directed all investigating agencies to ensure they do not disclose the identity of victims of sexual offences in the chargesheet, warning action would be initiated if the directive was not followed.
A division bench of Justices Vibha Kankanwadi and Abhay Waghwase of the Aurangabad bench of the HC on February 8 said investigating agencies have to be sensitive in such matters and have to submit documents that reveal the identity of the victim only in sealed envelopes.
The bench, which made the remarks in a bail order in a rape case, pointed out that section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibits disclosure of identity of the victim of certain offences, but it was coming across instances time and again where this rule was not followed.
The HC told agencies dealing with investigation of such crimes that henceforth photographs of victims should be filed in sealed envelopes before the courts concerned.
“We may also say that failure to follow the directions may invite the action for the offence under Section 228-A of the Indian Penal Code,” it said.
The remarks were made by the judges in an order granting bail to a 33-year-old man accused of raping a 27-year-old widow.
The case dates back to October 2022 when the woman alleged the man raped her on the promise of marriage. The accused refused to marry the victim on the ground that she belonged to a “lower” caste.
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The bench, after going through the material on record, noted it was a consensual relationship and granted bail to the accused.
The court, in its order, said it was constrained to note police in its chargesheet had revealed the identity of the victim and also enclosed photographs.
“The identity of the victim cannot be disclosed by any of the authorities in the chargesheet. Nowadays, we are finding that photographs are taken, i.e., either the old photographs are collected or even victim showing the spot of occurrence are taken and those photographs are produced in the chargesheet,” the bench said.
The judges said such photographs can be taken but they should not be openly added as part of the chargesheet.
“A chargesheet travels from the office of the investigating agency (may be handled by many persons), then it comes to either the Court of Judicial Magistrate First Class or directly presented before the learned Special Judge where also it is handled by many persons,” the HC observed.
It maintained the investigating agency has to be sensitive in such matters.
“Under such circumstances, the identity of the victim is disclosed. The investigating agency has to be sensitive in such matters. If they want to produce such documents, then it should be put in a sealed envelope, including in the copies of the chargesheet also, so that the identity of the victim is not disclosed in any manner,” the court said.