New Delhi: Taking strong objection to news reports about the juvenile accused in Delhi gang-rape case, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to take action against media houses which gave specific details of the juvenile accused and labeled him as the most brutal of all the six accused in the case.
“You are requested to ensure all necessary action as required under the law, especially as per the provision of Section 21 of the Juvenile Justice (care & protection of children) Act, 2000, and the guidelines issues by the Delhi High Court for media reporting on children,” NCPCR chairperson Shanta Sinha wrote to Uday Verma, secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting on 1 February.
“Please also ensure that further labeling of the minor accused does not take place in the media in any manner,” she added.
Section 21 of Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) bars media from disclosing any detail that can lead to the identification of the juvenile in conflict with law, unless such disclosure is allowed by the authority conducting the inquiry. The violation of this law is punishable with a maximum punishment of a Rs 25,000 penalty.
The NCPCR chairperson wrote to the Ministry taking cognizance of a complaint by Delhi based lawyer Anant Asthana. However, she did not agree with the views of the complainant that Section 21 of JJ Act be widened to include media reportage which results into stigmatization and vilification of juvenile in conflict with law.
Sinha told Firstpost that the Act in its current form was adequate to safeguard the privacy and prevent stigmisation of juvenile offenders.
“The implementation of JJ Act has to be done on principles of dignity and worth and the principle of best interest of child. If we follow the spirit of the Act, then no amendment is required,” she said.
Guidelines for reporting on children, approved by the Delhi High Court in August 2012 and to which Sinha referred in her letter to the Ministry, said, “Media must ensure that due consideration is given to a child’s right to privacy and to prevent the child from being exposed to anxiety, distress, trauma, social stigma, risk to life and safety and further suffering in relation to reporting of news programs and documentaries on and for children.”
The guidelines were constituted after a PIL was submitted before the Court highlighting media reports which carried details of baby Falak and the teenager who took the battered baby to AIIMS last year.
The guidelines said that media should be cautious while reporting matters related to juveniles as, “media coverage on matters relating to children may have long term consequences on their overall development (physical, mental, psychological, emotional, moral, social, economic etc.), life and dignity and lack of care by media in this regard may entail real risk of children facing harm, stigma, disqualification, retribution.”
Media reporting on juvenile accused in gang-rape case has also been questioned by a petition submitted before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), Delhi. The petition blames Delhi police and welfare officers in the Board for leaking information regarding the juvenile accused which allegedly resulted into biased media reporting.
The JJB will hear the petition on 28 February.