Right to Privacy of a Rape Accused

Rape Accused

In India where we have formed various laws for the protection of the rights and interests of women but still seem to be many loopholes. India ranks 148 out of 170 countries as per the report of ‘Women, Peace and Security Index 2021’. According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) latest data for 2020, Overall, 3,71,503 cases of crime against women were reported across the country last year, out of which  28,046 cases were related to only rape incidents during that year.

The report shows that 77 rape cases were reported in India every day in 2020.  Rape is the most heinous and common crime against women only. India ranks fourth position in the highest number of rape cases in the world. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code 1872 defines the offense of Rape. It says that Rape is the Penetration of a man’s sexual organ (penis) into a woman’s mouth, vagina, urethra, or anus or making her do so with him or someone else, without her will or consent or at a time when she is unable to give consent on her behalf due to intoxicated, insanity, misconception or being a minor. The offense of rape is punishable with rigorous imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than 7 years or up to 10 years which also may extend to the imprisonment of life and shall also be liable to fine as per Section 376 of the IPC.

In India, we have seen some of the worst rape cases in the history of the country in the past decade. The cases that shook the sub-consciousness of the whole country like the Nirbhaya Rape Case 2012, Hyderabad Rape Case 2019, Unnao Rape Case, Hathras Gangrape Case, and Kathua Rape Case, were not only widely covered by the media report, but also subjects to media trial, which they justify it as their right to speech and expression under article 19(1) of the constitution. Media trial means when various newspapers, magazines, television channels, and social media websites interpret facts of a particular case and represent them in front of the general public in their way and creating a perception of innocence or guilt of the accused even before the Court of law announces its judgment. On the one side, where it disturbs the trial proceedings by affecting the behavior of witnesses and jurors, on the other side it breaches the right to privacy of the rape victim as well as the rape accused.

In the Puttaswamy v. Union of India case, 2017, The Supreme court declared that the right to privacy is a Fundamental Right guaranteed to every person, protected under the right to life and personal liberty( Article 21 ) incorporated under Part III of the Indian Constitution. The right to privacy means the right to be forgotten and to be left alone. It means that society will not interfere with the personal life of a person and his choices so long as they do not cause harm to others, and all publicly available personal information related to an individual should be removed from the internet, search, databases, websites or any other public platforms.

Our Indian criminal legal system is based on the principle of innocence. An accused person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Hence, If a person is even accused of the offense of rape, he shall have the right to privacy. Our Indian legal system confronts many challenges when it comes to dealing with the protection of the identity of rape accused and victims. Despite strict legal and administrative provisions, the identity of the rape accused and victims are revealed by the media through its media trial, and the life of the rape survivor, as well as the accused, becomes more miserable after the incident.

Recently a petition has filed in a Kerala high court by the rape accused seeking to protect his right to privacy against media coverage on the ground that it violates his right to the dignity and privacy that are protected by Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. In this case, the personal information of the accused related to his identity, address, and family was disclosed and widely circulated. The petitioner has expressed serious concerns and threats of a fair trial due to the unchecked spread of false pieces of information in the era of rapid technological advancement and shows how the media coverage of this matter badly affects the rights of both victims and accused. The court observed the negative impact of media coverage on the public’s trust in the legal system. The Kerala high court is yet to hear the matter.

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