On the face of it, a First Information Report (FIR) may be a public document which can be obtained from the concerned magistrate. And once a judicial trial begins, the FIR and the evidence of the witnesses comes within the public domain as the judicial proceedings are open to the public.
However, this is not the case in rape cases, writes lawyer and human rights activist Monica Sakhrani, alluding to Mumbai Mirror‘s coverage of a rape case in which it very nearly identified the victim, which drew the ire of women’s groups.
“[Such publication] would lead to fewer and fewer women coming forward to register cases of sexual assault where in any case, women have to bear the blame of at best being stupid and at worst being promiscuous liars.
“It takes tremendous courage and strength to take recourse to law by a woman in a case of sexual assault where she stands to lose as much as the accused.
“One must also not lose sight of the fact that the legal discourse is fundamentally a patriarchal discourse with its value loaded binary of chastity versus promiscuity, shame versus brazenness.
“The very fact that the woman has ‘come out in the open’ by filing the case, condemns her and justifies a vilification campaign through use of arguments of public interest which are invasive of privacy. In effect the site of challenge of patriarchy is itself patriarchy. The press coverage and the publication of the FIR in this case is a case to point.”
Read the full article: Free speech and breach of privacy
Also read: ‘FIR is not a license to titillate or sensationalise’