New Delhi, Apr 13 (PTI) The Delhi High Court today frowned upon media houses for disclosing the identity of an eight-year-old girl who was gang raped and killed in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir, and asked why action be not taken against them for “injustice to the privacy and dignity of the victim”.

The high court also prohibited the media from revealing any further identity of the victim by any means, including name and photographs for which 12 media houses, comprising print and electronic, were issued notices for the “unfortunate” and “extremely distressing” manner of reporting.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar, which on its own took cognisance of the media reports, said that there was a need for the media to “circumspect on reporting to the extent it is in contravention of the law”.

“Freedom of press has to be balanced with integrity of judicial process and must comport with the requirement of the law,” the court said.

It issued notices to 12 media houses and prohibited 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 bench said that it was restricting issuance of notice to only the 12 entities as it did not have information of the other media houses which have effected similar publications and when the details would be known, notices would be issued to them as well.

In its news reports in connection with the case, The Press Trust of India has not disclosed the name or put out the photograph of the victim.

The court also issued notices to the Centre, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) and directed them to “take steps to prohibit any disclosure of 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, by an person(s) or authorities”.

While issuing the directions, the bench said it was “pained” by the fact that “no authority including the NCPCR, the NCW or the DCW have even reacted to this terrible development”.

The bench, later, orally asked the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) to ascertain the background of the victim and whether there was any victim compensation scheme available in Jammu and Kashmir similar to the one existing in Delhi.

In its nine-page order, the court said, “The manner and contents of reporting actually also does injustice to the privacy and dignity of the child victim” and also violates section 23 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act as well as section 228A of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 23 of POCSO law lays down the procedure for the media to report cases of sexual offences against child victims and section 228A of IPC deals with disclosure of identity of victims of such offences. The penal law provides for jail term of two years with a fine.

The court said that the violation of section 228A is treated as an offence against public justice.

During the hearing in the morning, the court, while referring to the media reports, had said “A whole media trial is going on.” The eight-year-old had disappeared from near her home in a village near Kathua in the 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 a main charge sheet against seven persons and a separate charge sheet against a juvenile in a court in Kathua district earlier this week.

The charge sheet revealed chilling details about how the girl was allegedly kidnapped, drugged and raped inside a place of worship before being killed.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.