‘Protect identities of parties in workplace sexual harassment cases’: Bombay HC

The Bombay HC said that all orders and judgments will be delivered in private, instead of being pronounced in open court

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In case of sexual harassment cases, the Bombay High Court has drawn up detailed guidelines for courts as well as the media with the aim of protecting the identities of those involved. This is the first time that an attempt has been made to establish guidelines in POSH, sexual harassment of women at workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) cases.

According to the HC, the names of the parties involved in cases under the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, will not be mentioned in the order sheets.

The order passed by Justice GS Patel is aimed at protecting the accused as well as the victims in such cases. The orders will not refer to the parties by name, but as ‘plaintiffs’ or ‘defendants’ and ‘A vs B’ and so on. No mobile numbers or e-mail ids, addresses or other personal information of the parties will be revealed in the order. Names and addresses of witnesses will not be mentioned and orders/judgments on merits will not be uploaded either.

The HC also stated that all orders and judgements will be delivered in private, that is, in chambers or in-camera instead of the open court.

While the Registry is allowed to ask for identity documents to verify the identity of the deponents, no such documents or their copies may be retained or filed.

No-one other than the Advocate-on-Record with a current and valid vakalatnama will be allowed by the Registry to inspect copies of any filings or orders. The records will be sealed and nobody will have access to the same without a Court order. The hearings will be in chambers, by physical attendance, and no online or hybrid hearings will be allowed. During the hearings, only the advocates and litigants will be permitted to be present, and all others must leave.

No order will be made public without a specific approval or order of the Court. Also, such an order will be given by the Court only for the totally anonymised version of the judgement.

Parties involved will not be allowed to disclose the contents of any order, judgment or filing to the media in any form, without specific approval of the Court. All witnesses to the action will be required to sign a statement of non-disclosure and confidentiality. Any attempt to record or transcribe the proceedings will be considered as contempt of court.

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