27 April 2015

Should the names of the people accused for committing rape be disclosed before they are charged?

Authored by Dwayne Farnandez

Rape is a very sensitive issue in society. It is understood as the ‘ravishing’ and ‘violation’ of a woman. Violation of not only a woman’s body, but also her modesty and integrity. When a woman complains about having been raped, the police make a fair investigation pertaining to the allegations. The police take the suspected people (accused) into custody and conduct tests and record statements based on which the case is either suspended at that point or is taken forward. The main issue with society today, and with some people, is that they are aware about the consequences of committing rape. Women deserve the right to be protected, as do men. In this generation, women have started taking advantage of the fact that rape can get a ‘man’ into a lot of trouble under the law, and therefore we see false allegations being filed against men who at times are not involved with the incident, or such an incident is just concocted by the woman in order to get the man behind bars. Keeping this in mind, wouldn’t it be unfair to disclose the names of the people accused for rape before they are tried and charged?

Recently, there was a case where a girl filed false allegations against two boys in Amity University Delhi for having gang-raped her. The two boys were about to get convicted for the offence until the girl sent a message on Facebook to her friend, which went viral stating that she had successfully taken revenge for an earlier incident by falsely accusing them for rape. This was the only piece of evidence, which could save the two boys, and in the absence of which would have been convicted for gang rape. This is what I meant by the fact that women are starting to realize the power they have over men, and are using ‘rape’ as an excuse to get them punished. This sad situation puts the girls who are actually being raped in a tough situation, because nobody is sure whether she was actually raped or whether it might just be a story to ruin the lives of some boys. Therefore, it is fair not to disclose the names of the people accused for committing rape before being charged, as if the allegations are false, and the names of the boys are disclosed to the public under these grounds, it is an embarrassment and shameful for them, leading to social exclusion and trauma, which is not rightfully due to them. It goes against the constitutional right of the individuals.

Under section 228 A of the Indian Penal Code, No person shall disclose the name of the ‘rape victim’, and if disclosed, shall be punishable with imprisonment for up to two years and liable to pay necessary fines. This clause is perfectly placed as it is understood that the girl filing the charges (victim), has already gone through enough trauma, and her name being published would just tarnish her image in society. But at the same time, wouldn’t it just be fair enough not to disclose the names for the accused before conviction? The Indian courts follow the rule ‘Innocent until proven guilty’. Shouldn’t this apply here as well? Until the accused is proved guilty, their names should not be disclosed as it immediately tarnishes their reputation in society irrespective of whether they have actually committed the rape or no. The law should demand a burden of proof from either side (the alleged rapists and the rape victim). 

Another issue with rape in India is with respect to the procedural system. The courts in India take years to come to a conclusion and pass a judgment. Think about how traumatizing it must be for an individual who has been wrongfully accused for committing rape to be kept in custody until the hearing is passed. India needs to concoct a full proof speedy system in order to try rape cases which is fair to both men and women. In the case where a woman has been raped, she should be able to get justice for that act as soon as possible. The same applies to a man who has been wrongfully accused for have committing the cognizable offence. Therefore it is correct to say that people should have the right to defend themselves and that the burden of proof should lie on both the parties to prove their allegations and innocence. Under the CrPC, there should be a separate FIR and Charge sheet made by the police in order to conduct rape cases, which do not disclose the names of the parties on the books (Which can be viewed by the public). It is only fair to release the names of the accused people after they have been tried and convicted instead of ruining their livelihood and social status based on allegations (Irrelevant whether true or false at this point).

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