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Bengaluru, Dec 13 – Calling a section of media irresponsible and insensitive on Tuesday, Karnataka High Court suo motu directed them not to telecast any interview of a woman, who was partially stripped and paraded in Vantamuri village in Belagavi district.

“If any media house or its representatives has videographed the interview of the victim during the visit of the Hon’ble Minister or any such interaction by the victim, this Court hereby directs not to telecast such interview or interaction on any national or regional Channel,” the Court said.

It added: “If already such an interview is displayed or telecasted in the electronic media, henceforth there shall not be any display or telecast of the same.”

The Court’s direction refers to the incident that took place on Monday night, wherein the woman allegedly was dragged out of her house, stripped partalliy, paraded and tied to an electric pole, in the village. Her only crime allegedly was that her son had eloped with a girl of the accused family.

Police officers are said to have rushed to the spot to rescue the woman, after a villager tipped off the authorities.

A bench of Chief Justice PB Varale and Justice MGS Kamal orally observed that such sensationalised reporting will only add to the suffering of the victim and expressed anguish over the same.

He noted that while there were guidelines put in place against revealing the identity of sexual assault victims in media reports, the fines to be paid by an errant media outlet pales in comparison to the gravity of their error.

“Even the Hon’ble Apex Court expressed in these terms, that the National Broadcasting Commission putting fines is peanuts for these acts. The media is only to pay some (fine) of 100s and 1000s of rupees when the damage is irreparable. What could this 1000s of rupees do to that unfortunate lady who was shown in the coverage all over the world, who is already the sufferer and put to shame? We are adding injury to her insult. I’m really very sorry, this is shocking,” Chief Justice Varale said.

Observing that the woman appeared to be from a downtrodden background, the Court also questioned whether only affluent people can get protection in today’s day and age while voiceless people from poorer backgrounds are left to be exploited.

The Court also lamented that the incident reported “not only shocks our conscience but makes us put our head down with anguish and pain in our hearts.”

“On one hand while this Country is celebrating 76th year of Independence as ‘Azadi ka Amruthotsav’, on the other hand, in the State of Karnataka which is known for all valid reasons as a progressive State and a pioneer State of initiation of social justice way back even when it was a Princely State of Mysore, faces this incident,” the Court added.

The Court went on to take exception to how the victim’s visuals were broadcast by certain outlets even though it noted that the print media displayed some sensitivity by blurring the victim’s face.

Referring to the broadcast of the victim’s visuals in media reports of the victim’s interaction with a State Minister, the Court commented that the media persons (who published the visuals) “seem to be acting in the most irresponsible and insensitive manner.”

The Court, therefore, ordered the takedown of such broadcasts which feature the victim’s visuals.

“If any media house or its representatives has videographed the interview of the victim during the visit of the Hon’ble Minister or any such interaction by the victim, this Court hereby directs not to telecast such interview or interaction on any national or regional Channel. It is further made clear that if already such interview is displayed or telecasted in the electronic media, henceforth there shall not be any display or telecast of the same,” the Court’s order stated.

The Court added that these directions are only meant to protect the victim’s dignity and identity and are not meant to hamper the freedom of the press.

“This Court by this interim order is not even remotely prohibiting the media from covering the news as this Court maintains and accepts the concept of freedom of press,” the order said.

Meanwhile, Advocate General Shashi Kiran Shetty appeared before the bench today and assured that steps would be taken so that there is no unwarranted or uncalled-for coverage of the incident by the media.

The Court has asked the Advocate General to submit a status report on the incident by December 14.