Supreme Court Issues Directive to Protect POCSO Victim’s Identity in West Bengal

In a pivotal move echoing through the chambers of justice, the Supreme Court has issued a directive, summoning attention to the sanctity of anonymity for victims under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in West Bengal. The court, comprising Justices Sandeep Mehta and PB Varale, emphasized the imperative need for sensitization among both judicial and police officers in the state to uphold this vital legal provision.

Under Section 33(7) of the POCSO Act, it is expressly mandated that the identity of the child victim must remain undisclosed throughout the investigative and trial processes. Any deviation from this protocol is subject to stringent consequences, as stipulated in Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes punitive measures for revealing the victim’s identity.

However, the court lamented the breach of these statutory obligations in a recent case, where the victim’s name was erroneously disclosed during the recording of statements under Sections 164 and 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.). Such lapses stand in direct contravention to the legal precedent established in the Nipun Saxena case, wherein the Supreme Court underscored the paramount importance of shielding victims from potential discrimination or harassment by safeguarding their anonymity.

Citing the unequivocal provisions of the POCSO Act, the court reiterated that any disclosure of the victim’s identity must be strictly contingent upon a thorough evaluation of the child’s best interests by the Special Court. The mere appropriation of a victim’s name for symbolic purposes, divorced from genuine considerations for their welfare, does not warrant an exception to this fundamental principle.

In essence, the court’s directive serves as a clarion call to uphold the integrity of the legal framework designed to protect vulnerable victims of sexual offences. By prioritizing the preservation of anonymity, particularly in sensitive cases involving minors, the judiciary reaffirms its unwavering commitment to justice and compassion.

The case of Utpal Mandal versus the State of West Bengal & Anr. serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing imperative to fortify safeguards for victims within the criminal justice system.

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