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Bombay HC issues new guidelines for sexual harassment at workplace cases

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday issued guidelines for cases under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act and Rules. One of the new rules says that the 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.

Here are some new guidelines issued by the High Court

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • If an 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.
  • 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.
  • Witnesses to the action, in addition to the usual oath, must sign a statement of non-disclosure and confidentiality.
  • 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.

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. 

(With inputs from ANI)

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