Hearings, orders to be in camera; no names to be mentioned; disclosure to invite contempt
The Bombay High Court has issued guidelines for hearing cases and recording orders in cases under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act and Rules, and said, “names of both the parties will not mentioned” and “all orders and judgments will not be delivered in open court.”
Justice Gautam Patel said, “All persons, including the media, are required to ensure strict compliance with these conditions of anonymity. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.”
The court was hearing a case involving issues under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013.
The court said, “There appear to be no established guidelines so far in such matters. This order, setting out a working protocol for future orders, hearings and case file management, is a first endeavour in that direction. These are only initial guidelines and will necessarily be subject to revision or modification as needed.”
The guidelines released on September 24 mention: “In order sheets, the names of the parties will not be mentioned. The orders will read “A v B”, “P vs D” etc; In the body of the order, the parties will not be referred to by their names but only as 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 and 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.”
The seven-page order lists, “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 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 went on to say, “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. All persons, including the media, are required to ensure strict compliance with these conditions of anonymity. Failure to do so will be a contempt of court.
“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,” the order read.
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