Petition in Supreme Court against Bombay HC norms on sexual harassment cases

Sexual Harrasment

The Supreme Court has heard an appeal against a Bombay high court order that established guidelines to protect parties’ identities under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) and Rules.

The order, issued on September 24 last year by Justice G S Patel of the high court, listed a number of guidelines for conducting hearings, passing and uploading orders, and reporting on cases of sexual harassment of women at work, and stated that such cases can be heard “in-camera” or in the judge’s chamber, with no reporting allowed without the judge’s permission. The court had stated that any violation of these orders would be considered contempt of court.

The high court’s decision was challenged in the Supreme Court, with the directions being described as a “death blow” to freedom of speech and expression.

“The high court has failed to consider that any blanket ban or gag order in the form of an injunction prohibiting the broadcast of true and accurate facts will infringe on the people’s right to know and violate their right to information, as guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.” “This will have a devastating and detrimental effect on society as a whole,” the victim’s plea, drafted by advocate Abha Singh, stated.

The high court order was issued suo moto in a suit filed by the victim seeking compensation for wrongful termination, according to Singh. “This gag order will be used as a tool for powerful men to continue to sexually harass women and then suppress women’s voices on social media and in the news media,” according to the plea.

Ms. Singh has however argued that the HC order violates the principles of open court as enshrined in the Swapnil Tripathi judgment.

She argued that such an order cannot be passed in a suit for compensation due to wrongful and retaliatory termination.

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