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HC directs government to frame policy on protecting identity of accused, victims

The Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government to frame a policy within six months on prohibiting police and prosecutors from disclosing the identity of the accused and the victims in criminal cases. It also asked the Union Government to issue a circular, similar to the one issued by the state, prohibiting pre-trial disclosure of identities of accused and victims.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Rahul Thakur against ‘trial by the media’.

Earlier, the court had asked the state government to issue a circular prohibiting disclosure of certain information about the crimes to the media before the trial starts. The circular was issued, but the court expressed dissatisfaction as it covered only the accused but not the victims and complainants. The court then sought a fresh circular. The government today informed the division bench headed by Justice Abhay Oka in an affidavit that it had come out with a new circular restraining police, investigating officers and prosecutors from briefing media about the cases.

The HC then asked the state to frame a policy in this regard within six months. The bench also directed the Union Government to issue a circular on the same lines.

Earlier, the judges had observed that under the media’s glare, quality of investigation can suffer, and the victim and witnesses may get scared which can affect the probe. “After the charge-sheet is filed, all the details will be in the open. Till then, the police should not disclose them,” Justice Oka had said.

Advocate Thakur’s PIL contends that overzealous sections of the media infringe on fundamental rights of privacy, fair trial and dignity of the accused as well as the victims with undue publicity during the investigation stage.

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