Bombay High Court orders probe agencies not to disclose identity of rape victims even in chargesheet

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The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court recently ordered all investigating agencies to ensure that they do not disclose the identity of the victims of sexual offences even in the chargesheet [Sajjan Hirchand Gusinge vs State of Maharashtra].

A division bench Justices Vibha Kankanwadi and Abhay Waghwase noted that usually, the investigating agencies, while filing chargesheet, incorporate certain photographs in which the identity of the victim is disclosed.

“The identity of the victim cannot be disclosed by any of the authorities in the charge-sheet. 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 charge-sheet. We do not say that such photographs should not be collected or should not be taken, but we expect that those photographs should not be openly added as part of charge sheet,” the bench observed in the order passed on February 8.

The bench noted that a chargesheet usually is handled by several persons.

“Under such circumstance, the identity of the victim is disclosed. The investigating agency has to be sensitive in the matter. If they want to produce such documents, then it should be put in a sealed envelope including in the copies of the charge sheet also, so that the identity of the victim is not disclosed in any manner,” the bench underscored.

In its order, the bench also noted that several judgments have been passed by the High Court as also the Supreme Court, which has mandated that the identities of the victim in such cases should not be disclosed.

“We are constrained to make these observations, as we are coming across such incidences time and again. We may also observe that when it was found that the accused facing such charges (sexual offences) want to rely on certain photographs in which, victim is seen then those photographs are openly placed/annexed in the petition,” the bench pointed out.

It further said that the similar directions to keep such photos etc in sealed envelope have already been issued by the principal bench of the High Court.

It said it would only add that the agencies that are dealing with the investigation of such crimes should, henceforth, file the photographs of such victims in sealed envelope before the concerned court.

“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. These directions are also to the concerned Courts where the charge sheet is accepted. They should also see that such photographs are produced in sealed envelope before them and the identity of the victim is not disclosed in any manner,” the Court added

It was dealing with a plea filed by an accused seeking bail in a rape case filed against him on a complaint made by a widow, who alleged that he raped her on the promise of marriage and later refused to marry her on the ground that she belonged to a lower caste.

The bench, after going through the material on record, noted that it was a consensual relationship and, therefore, granted bail to the accused.

Advocate MS Karad appeared for the Appellant.

Additional Public Prosecutor Preeti Diggikar represented the State.

Advocate AK Bhosale appeared for the victim.

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