Petition filed in Apex Court against Bombay High Court Sexual Harassment Case Order

Bombay High Court law insiderBombay High Court law insider

Mitali Palnitkar

Published On: January 06, 2022 at 19:33 IST

A woman based in Mumbai approached the Apex Court against an Order passed by Bombay High Court on September 24, 2021. The Order had listed a few guidelines for the protection of the identity of the parties involved in the Proceedings under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) and Rules.

The Bench of Justice G S Patel had laid down the Guidelines in the Order. The Court Registry and the media were barred from publishing Court Proceedings without the Court’s approval.

The woman who moved to the Supreme Court is the original Plaintiff in the Bombay High Court Case referred to. She approached the Apex Court through a Special Leave Petition (SLP). The woman was represented by Advocate Abha Singh who stated that the High Court Order suffered from grave irregularities.

The Petition stated, “It will legitimize undue protection to sexual offenders in gross violation of principles of Open Court, natural justice and fundamental rights of survivors.”

The guidelines in the High Court Order stated that the names of the party and the personal information shall not be mentioned in the Court Order; the orders or judgments on merits will not be uploaded; entire record to be kept sealed; Hearings to be held in chamber or in camera with only physical presence and in absence of Support staff; orders shall not be revealed in public domain; parties, Advocates and witnesses on both sides shall not disclose any information to media; and the breach of guidelines would amount to Contempt of Court.

The Petition stated that the High Court Order violates Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and expression, and also violates the Open Court principles. It also highlights the significance of public disclosure in matters related to women empowerment and social justice. The Petition also alerts on the ‘ripple effect’ of the Order due to which the survivors may not approach the Court.

The Petition also reads, “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.”

The Plea further stated, “This gag order will serve as a tool for powerful men to continue to sexually harass women and thereafter suppress women’s voices on social media and in news media with the help of such gag orders.”

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