Text Practice Mode


created Oct 14th, 01:50 by Sawan Ivnati



441 words
138 completed
In a bid to protect the identities of those involved in prevention of sexual harassment trials, the Bombay High Court, in a recent judgment, has set out guidelines that appear to be prohibitive and may set a dangerous precedent. The guidelines laid down by Justice Gautam Patel on September 24 (in P v. A & Ors) prohibit the disclosure of the identities of the victim, accused and witnesses, and mandate that all such court hearings be held in-camera or in judges chambers, with only the court stenographer, plaintiff, defendant and their lawyers being present. Even court orders and judgments will not be delivered in open court. Parties to POSH trials are prohibited from disclosing any information relating to such trials (including the final order/judgment) to the media or publicising the same via social media, without permission from the court. Breach of these conditions will be contempt of court. Judgments in POSH cases will no longer be published or uploaded for public consumption without permission of the court, and, even then, publication of only a fully anonymised version can be allowed. For any lawyer to access this judgement, a court order will have to be obtained.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) mandates that government and private organisations redress complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace in a manner that is simpler and quicker than the judicial process. But these guidelines stretch the need for confidentiality far more than necessary. Identities of victims/survivors of child sexual abuse and rape are required to be kept confidential from the media, unless they exercise their rights under Section 228A(ii)(b) of the Indian Penal Code. This is done to prevent victims from being ostracised. If this same privilege is extended to complainants and witnesses in POSH cases, that would be beneficial because there is reasonable expectation of retaliation at the workplace. It is for this reason that Section 16 of the POSH Act prohibits members of the internal committee and employers from revealing identities of those involved in POSH inquiries. However, unlike the blanket ban imposed by these guidelines, the POSH Act does not expressly prohibit complainants and respondents from themselves revealing this information. Moreover, the POSH Act allows publication of the justice secured to a victim, which must also be revealed by every organisation in their annual report (without identifying the parties), in order to let the public know about the nature of action taken by employers in sexual harassment cases. Extending this veil of confidentiality to the respondent’s identity is a privilege that has not been given to those accused under any other laws.  

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