Every District Must Have A One-Stop Centre For Survivors

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the states and Union territories to set up ‘one-stop centre’ in every district within a year to provide integrated assistance to rape victims through police, medical, legal services along with counselling, relief and rehabilitation.

Holding that the victim of a sexual offence is often treated worse than the perpetrator, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said there is a need to treat survivors with sympathy and ensure they are not harassed while seeking justice. The court said the rape victim’s identity must not be disclosed by media and prosecution. Names can be revealed only in public interest with court’s permission, it said.

“A victim of rape will face discrimination and social ostracisation. Such victim will find it difficult to get a job, get married and get integrated in society like a normal human. Our criminal jurisprudence does not provide for an adequate witness protection programme and, therefore, the need is much greater to protect the victim. We hold that no person can print or publish the name of the victim or disclose any facts which can lead to the victim being identified,” Justice Gupta, who wrote the judgment, said.

The court said police officers investigating such cases should use a pseudonym to describe the victim unless it is absolutely necessary to write down her identity. “The copy of an FIR relating to rape offence against a women or offences against children falling within purview of Pocso shall not be put in the public domain,” it said. The court, however, said if an adult victim has no objection to her identity being revealed, she can authorise any person in writing to disclose her name.

The court turned down the plea that in cases where the victim is dead, use of her name should be permitted because it can become a rallying point to prevent such offences. “We are of the view, it is not necessary to disclose victim’s identity to arouse public opinion. All of us are fully aware that without disclosing her true identity, Nirbhaya became the most effective symbol of protest the country has ever known,” it said.

Holding that the victim of a sexual offence is often treated worse than the perpetrator, the bench said there is a need to ensure survivors