Kerala HC quashes case against nuns who sent photo of rape survivor to media

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The Kerala High Court on Thursday quashed the proceedings against two nuns accused of revealing the identity of a rape survivor.

Justice Kauser Edappagath found that even though a photograph of the rape survivor along with a few priests was sent to some media persons, the name or identity was not disclosed in the reports that were published.

Since the nuns had also sent a specific instruction to the media persons to not publish the photograph, the Court held that the same would only be a private communication and would not attract the offence under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code.

“Therefore, the contents of the report as such do not fall within Section 228A of the IPC. Of course, the report carries the photograph of the victim. But a specific instruction was given by the petitioners to the recipient of the e-mail that the identity of the person in the photograph or identity of the victim shall not be published at all. It is submitted that, that is not published also. Hence, I am of the view that, it is only a private communication between two persons. The circumstance shows that there was no intention on the part of the petitioners to disclose the identity of the victim involved in a sexual offence to the public at large or even to a third party”, the Court said.

The court issued the order on a petition moved by two nuns to quash the proceedings against them at the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court-I, Pala after a crime was registered at the Kuruvilangad Police Station, Kottayam.

The prosecution allegation was that the petitioners published photo of the victim involved in a case under Section 376 of the IPC disclosing her identity.

Advocate Alex Joseph, appearing for the petitioner nuns, said that even if the entire allegations against the petitioners are believed in its entirety, no offence under Section 228A of the IPC is made out.

Moreover, he pointed out that even though the allegation in the First Information Statement was that the petitioners published a photo through WhatsApp, it was later found that it was merely an e-mail sent to three media persons.

On the other hand, Public Prosecutor MP Prasanth, submitted that, even a private communication between two individuals, that too with media persons, disclosing the identity of the victim would fall within the ambit of Section 228A of the IPC.

The Court went through a copy of the e-mails which contained as well as a photograph.

“In the report, the name of the victim has not been disclosed at all. However, after the report, a photograph of the victim along with a few other priests had been shown. But it is specifically stated at the end of the report that the identity as well as the face of the victim shall not be published”, the Court noted.

This would qualify as personal communication outside the ambit of Section 228A IPC, the Court said as it allowed the petitions and quashed the case against the nuns.

Read Order here:

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