A Mumbai-based woman has moved the Supreme Court against an order passed by the Bombay High Court in 2021 that laid down guidelines to protect the identities of the parties involved in proceedings under the POSH Act.
Vidya MumbaiJanuary 6, 2022
Bombay High Court (Photo: File)
AMumbai-based woman has moved the Supreme Court against an order passed by the Bombay High Court in 2021 that laid down guidelines to protect the identities of the parties involved in proceedings under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) and Rules.
The guidelines, passed by the bench of Justice GS Patel, had barred the media and even court registry from publishing case proceedings or details without approval from the court.
The woman who has approached the Supreme Court through a Special Leave Petition (SLP) is the original plaintiff in the Bombay High Court case. Advocate Abha Singh, on behalf of the plaintiff, said the high court order suffers from “grave irregularities”.
“It will legitimise undue protection to sexual offenders in gross violation of principles of open court, natural justice and fundamental rights of survivors,” the petition says.
WHAT DID THE BOMBAY HC ORDER SAY?
In the order passed on September 24, 2021, Justice GS Patel issued the following guidelines regarding proceedings under the POSH Act and Rules:
1. Neither the names of parties nor their personally identifiable information should be mentioned anywhere in any court order.
2. Orders and judgments on merits will not be uploaded. All orders and judgments will be delivered in private, i.e. in chamber or in camera.ADVERTISEMENThttps://091eb7dbbee3408ad80b5effce927f75.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
3. Entire record to be kept sealed and not be given to any person without court order. Fresh filings to be sealed also.
4. All hearings to be held in chamber or in camera. No online facility. Only physical appearance. Support staff must leave the court.
5. Unless there is specific court order, the orders will not be revealed in public domain. At best, only an anonymised version of the order will be released.
6. Both sides, parties and advocates are prohibited from releasing any order or judgment contents to the media. Witnesses must sign non-disclosure agreements.
7. Any breach of guidelines is a contempt of court.
WHAT DOES THE PETITION SAY?
In the SLP, Advocate Abha Singh has stated that the high court’s order violates freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The order violates the principles of open court, the petition says.
“The high court has failed to take into consideration that the intention of the constitutional framers was that a well-informed citizenry would govern itself better,” it adds.
The petition draws attention to the importance of public discourse in shaping the nature of legal entitlements delivered to women in matters of social justice and women empowerment. It also cautions the ‘ripple effect’ of such an order which may deter survivors from approaching the court and set a dangerous precedent for trial cases.