New Delhi: The Delhi high court once again issued notice to Qatar-based news outlet Al Jazeera for failing to appear before the court or deposit the fine amount for allegedly revealing the identity of the victim of the 2018 Kathua rape case.
The rape and murder of a minor girl in had taken place in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua in January 2018. In April of that year, the Delhi high court had taken suo motu cognisance of the media coverage of the incident.
The court had then pulled up over 20 publications for violating Section 23 (Procedure for media) of of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act relating to protecting the identity of a rape victim/survivor. Apart from Al Jazeera, the court had pulled up news outlets like NDTV, the Hindustan Times, the Times of India and more.
The court had sought the responses of the media houses and directed them to deposit Rs 10 lakh with it to be transferred to the erstwhile state’s Legal Services Authority for distribution to rape survivors and families of deceased victims.
While most of the concerned media houses deposited the amount, the Qatari news outlet did not. What’s more, according to a report in Bar and Bench, the court has issued at least four notices to Al Jazeera to appear before it, all of which have gone unanswered.
In a March 2019 order, the court had warned of coercive action against the news outlet without any further notice should it fail to appear before the court. Subsequent notices were issued in May 2019 and in February 2020. While issuing the latter notice, the court had also directed the Union government to provide it with Al Jazeera’s official address.
In the present instance, the division bench of Justices Satish Chandra Sharma and Subramonium Prasad noted the news outlets’ failure to respond and directed that notice be issued within one week of the November 11 hearing.
“There is no appearance on behalf of the Respondent No.28 (Al Jazeera). Let Court Notice be issued to Respondent No.28 positively within one week from today informing about the next date of hearing. Learned Amicus Curiae has fairly submitted that he will also make an attempt to serve the Respondents,” Bar and Bench quoted the court order as saying.
With that, the court posted the matter for further hearing on February 13, 2023.
Al Jazeera, however, claims that it has not received any notices. “Aljazeera is not in receipt of any notice from Honble Delhi High Court,” bureau chief Anmol Saxena told The Wire.
Note: This article was updated on November 18 with the statement from Al Jazeera.