New Delhi: Google and other social media platforms have done a great disservice to the nation by uploading contents which revealed the identity of an eight-year-old girl who was raped and killed in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, the Delhi High Court said Friday.
The court issued notice to social media platforms Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube after their Indian subsidiaries told the bench that they were not the concerned entity to reply to the court's notice on the issue.
"You have done a great disservice to the nation. India has been branded... It is an injustice to the nation and to the victim's family. This kind of publication is not permissible," a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Hari Shankar said.
The bench also said messages and images were circulated on Whatsapp showing India in a bad light. It also observed that the entities cannot absolve themselves for the illegal activities on their websites and the law was the same for everyone.
The court was informed by the counsel for the social media platforms that the court has arrayed as parties the Indian subsidiaries which were not responsible for the contents on the websites and it should make the parent companies a party.
It also asked the counsel for the foreign entities to take instructions as to how much they were willing to deposit to the Jammu and Kashmir Victim Compensation Fund as compensation for the victims.
The bench also stayed the proceedings initiated by the Press Council of India (PCI) under the Press Council Act against some of the media houses for disclosing the identity of the child victim in the rape case.
PCI has initiated the proceedings on receiving a reference from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting regarding the suo motu cognisance taken by the high court in the Kathua rape case.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 29.
It was also informed by one of the counsel that in Srinagar, the child victim's photographs were pasted on autos and buses.
To this, the court said it was conscious of its boundaries and limitations and would pass such orders which could be executed.
The bench had earlier observed that the names or photographs of a sexual abuse victim should not be revealed as such actions have long term "detrimental consequences".
It had on April 18 directed 12 media houses to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for revealing the identity of the minor rape victim. It had also indicated that it may enhance this amount, which has to be deposited in the Jammu and Kashmir Victim Compensation Fund. The media houses had apologised before the court.
Later, the bench added several other media houses and websites and asked them to pay the amount and file their response as to why action be not taken against them for disclosing the identity of the rape victim.
In its news reports connected with the case, The Press Trust of India had not disclosed the name or put out a photograph of the victim.
The court had directed that wide and continuous publicity be given to the statutory provisions of the law regarding the privacy of victims of sexual offences and punishment for revealing their identities.
While Section 23 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act lays down the procedure for the media to report cases of sexual offences against child victims, Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with disclosure of identity of victims of such offences. The penal law provides for jail term of two years with a fine.
On April 13, the high court had issued notices to 12 media houses and prohibited all of them "from effecting any publication including the name, address, photograph, family details, school details, neighbourhood or any other particulars which may have an effect of leading to the disclosure of the identity of the child victim".
The eight-year-old girl from a minority nomadic community had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in Jammu region on January 10. Her body was found in the same area a week later.
The state police's Crime Branch, which probed the case, filed the main chargesheet against seven persons and a separate chargesheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district last week. The chargesheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed.