How is Kathua Juvenile Accused’s Name Revealed in Chargesheet and MSM Reports?

One of the basics of criminal law in Bharat and elsewhere in the world is the fact that a juvenile accused’s name is kept concealed during investigation and trial, even if the accused is later convicted for his crime.

The J&K Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2013 clearly lays down: “No report in any newspaper, magazine or news-sheet or visual media of any enquiry regarding a juvenile in conflict with law under this Act shall disclose the names, address or school or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile or child.”

“Juvenile in conflict with law” would mean a juvenile alleged to have committed an offence and not completed 18 years of age on the date of commission of such an offence.

Then how is it possible that the prime accused juvenile in the Kathua alleged rape & murder case of an 8-year-old girl, has been named in the Crime Branch chargesheet as well as several reports in mainstream media? His parents’ names have also been liberally reproduced which can lead to easy identification of the juvenile.

As per this report, the date of birth of the juvenile is stated to be 23-10-2003 (which would mean he is 14-years-old). The Crime Branch had contested the claim that the accused was a juvenile, stating his age to be more than 19 years, as opined by the medical board constituted by them for age determination during investigation. However, pursuant to directions of the J&K High Court, an inquiry was conducted and the juvenile was found to be less than 16 years of age.

The chargesheet has been reproduced by FirstPost, and while it clearly mentions that one of the accused in question is a juvenile, the chargesheet reveals his name at 3 places, while at other times he is referred to as JCL (Juvenile in Conflict with Law).

Chargesheet reproduced on FirstPost, publishes the juvenile’s name while acknowledging that he is a juvenile. Isn’t this a a clear violation of JJ Act.

Almost all MSM outlets have disclosed the juvenile’s name as well – News18, Indian Express, Quint etc.

In the past, courts have explicitly forbidden media from naming juvenile accused in several other cases –

  • In the recent murder of a 7-year-old in Ryan school of Gurugram, court had barred the media from using the name of the 16-year-old accused in the case and asked it to use fictitious names instead.
  • In the brutal Nirbhaya gang rape case from 2012, the juvenile accused’s (who was just a few months away from turning 18 when he committed the crime) name was never revealed even though he turned adult during the trial and was eventually convicted for the crime. He walked out as an adult after 3 years of rehabilitation in a juvenile home. Police plea for a bone ossification test to confirm the accused’s age was also turned down.

Last week, The Delhi High Court slapped a fine of Rs. 10 lakhs on each media house which revealed the identity of the 8-year-old Kathua victim, as disclosing the identity of a rape victim is prohibited under IPC 228A.

In other news regarding the Kathua case, it has to come to light that another policeman who is part of the Crime Branch SIT probing the case has a chequered past, the Bar Council of India has backed Jammu lawyers’ demand that the Kathua probe be handed over to CBI, and the J&K High Court has also issued notice to J&K Govt asking them to reply by 7 May on why the case should not be transferred to CBI.

While looking at the way media and civil society has reacted to the Kathua case, it is also educative to study the way the recent alleged gang rape of a 10-year-old in a madrassa by a maulvi and another juvenile has been covered.

  • No media report even mentioned that the victim girl is a Hindu.
  • No media report named the juvenile (as they shouldn’t), but even the adult accused maulvi’s name is missing.
  • Hindu organizations who protested in Delhi over the case used a fictitious name – Geeta – for the victim, as was the right thing to do.

While everyone in the country hopes for justice for the 8-year-old girl from Kathua, the double standards at play in the way this case has been sensationalized & investigated couldn’t be starker.

(Featured Image courtesy: Swarajyamag.com)


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