Manoj Mitta TNN
New Delhi: In its extensive coverage of the gang rape, the media has largely refrained from naming the victim and her male friend. In the case of the friend, who has also been seriously injured, the media restraint in identifying him is entirely voluntary. But the restraint shown in the case of the victim is because of a legal bar backed with sanctions.
Here’s a quick look at the special rights conferred on rape victims by various laws: Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) imposes a blanket ban on the disclosure of the name of the rape victim. Even if it happens to be mentioned in the FIR, anybody publicizing her name is liable to be punished with imprisonment up to two years.
The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) contains a special provision, Section 164A, to ensure that the victim is medically examined within 24 hours of the receipt of the information of the rape. Though it is meant for collecting evidence, the law stipulates that the examination cannot be done without her consent. T
his gives the victim the option of not being subjected to tests, for whatever reason. On the other hand, Section 53(1) of CrPC empowers state authorities to use force for the medical examination of the accused person.
Where the accused is in a position of trust or authority over the victim (in police custody, jail, hospital, etc), Section 114A of the Indian Evidence Act says on the question whether the sexual act was consensual or not, her word will be taken at face value. As per the mandate of this provision, if “she states in her evidence before the court that she did not consent, the court shall presume that she did not consent.”
Though the principle of fairness requires a trial to be held in an open court, Section 327(2) of CrPC lays down that in rape cases the judicial proceedings “shall be conducted in camera”. It adds that it shall not be lawful for anybody to publish any matter related to such proceedings “except with the previous permission of the court”.
In the event of a gang rape, the victim is spared the burden of making specific allegations against all the accused. For, an explanation inserted in Section 376 IPC says that where a woman is raped by two or more persons “each of the persons shall be deemed to have committed gang rape”.