Mumbai: Bombay High Court issued guidelines for cases related to sexual harassment at the workplace under which names of the parties will not be mentioned in the order sheets.
Justice GS Patel passed an order to protect the interest of both accused and victim parties in cases of sexual harassment at the workplace.
Justice Patel in his order said that "In the order sheets, the names of the parties will not be mentioned. The orders will read 'A vs B', 'P vs D' etc. In the body of the order, the parties will not be referred to by their names but only as to Plaintiff, Defendant No 1 etc. In the body of any order, there will be no mention of any personally identifiable information (PII) such as email ids, mobile or telephone numbers, addresses etc. No witness's names will be mentioned, nor will their addresses be noted. Orders/judgments on merits will not be uploaded."
Talking about the current order, the court said that, "Because this order sets out general guidelines and does not address the merits, it is permitted to be uploaded."
About pronouncing the orders/judgements in these cases, the court said that "All orders and judgments will be delivered in private, that is to say, not pronounced in open court but only in chambers or in-camera."
For filing purposes, the order said that "No PII document shall be retained by the Registry when an affidavit, application or pleading is being filed. For verification of identity, the Registry may ask for production of an identity document to establish the identity of the deponent, but no copy of any such document is to be retained."
The court said that the Registry will not permit anyone other than the Advocate-on-Record with a current and valid vakalatnama to take inspection or copies of any filing or order. The entire record is to be kept sealed and is not to be given to any person without an order of the Court.
The court further said that all hearings will only be in chambers or in-camera. There will be no online or hybrid facility for hearings.
All hearings must be by physical attendance. Only the advocates and the litigants are permitted to attend hearings. Support staff (clerks, peons, etc), must leave the Court. Except for the Court Master/Associate or Sheristedar and the stenographer or person providing secretarial assistance, other court staff must also leave the court and not be present at the hearing.
The court said that, 'If any order is to be released into the public domain, this will require a specific order of the Court. This will be on the condition that only the fully anonymised version of the order of judgement is let
into the public domain for publication."
About media disclosure, the court order said that "Both sides and all parties and advocates, as also witnesses, are forbidden from disclosing the contents of any order, judgment or filing to the media or publishing any such material in any mode or fashion by any means, including social media, without specific leave of the court."
As per the court's order, witnesses to the action, in addition to the usual oath, must sign a statement of non-disclosure and confidentiality.
The court order further stated that "Any form of recording of any part of the proceedings is strictly forbidden. Any attempt to record or transcribe any part of the proceedings will be a contempt of court."
The court said that in POSH, Sexual Harassment of women at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) cases, there appear to be no established guidelines. This order, setting out a working protocol for future orders, hearings and case file management, is the first endeavour in that direction. These are only
initial guidelines, and will necessarily be subject to revision or modification as needed.
Any violation of any part of this order will be considered contempt of court.