Section 23 (2) of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (hereinafter referred as POSCO Act) condemns the disclosure of the identity of a child including his/her name, address, photograph, family details, school, neighborhood or any other details which reveals the identity of the child.
The fundamental right to privacy and dignity is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution with reasonable restrictions. At the same time special care and protection is garnered to children as they are the asset and the future of any nation. Thereby, protecting their privacy is of utmost importance and all the child welfare legislations are formulated in such a way so that their privacy is protected.
According to Article 16 of Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter as CRC), “No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence or to unlawful attacks on his / her honour and reputation.”1 It also violates the Beijing Rules on juvenile justice which reiterates the same.2
The Bombay High Court in a recent judgment barred the media reporting of judgments under POSH Act without getting prior permission. Justice Gautam Patel further barred it for cases relating to Secual Harassment of Women at Workplace ( Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal). Act, 2013. The guidelines deal with the format of filing for orders under POSH Act, filing protocols, granting access by the registry, directions to the certified copy department, public access, breach and so on.3
It was observed that without the special leave of the court, the identities of parties in the case, witnesses and others shall not be disclosed by any means including social media.
The following are the guidelines laid down by the court:
• The parties of the case must be kept and named anonymous, i.e., A v. B;
• While hearing, parties will not be called by their names, instead they will be addressed as plaintiff, defendant no.1 etc;
• In any order, the details or any personally identifiable information shall not be mentioned such as email ids, telephone number etc. and even the information of the witnesses shall be kept discreet;
• Orders on judgments/ merits will not be uploaded, however as the present case is laying down general guidelines so it can be uploaded;
• The judgments will be delivered in person under in- camera surveillance not in open court.
Regarding hearing and access:
• The registry is not supposed to allow any advocate other than those enrolled as advocate on record with a valid vakalatnama can inspect or order for any documents or copies;
• The entire record is kept confidential and only with the permission of the court it can be given; • The depositions given by the witnesses will not be uploaded under any circumstances;
• Proceedings will be held in camera and in chambers and no online proceedings are allowed;
• Only the advocates and litigants are permitted within the chambers, the peons, clerks and other persons will be sent out;
• Except the Court Master/Associate or Sheristedar and the stenographer or person providing secretarial assistance, all other Court staff must also leave the court once the proceedings begin.
Regarding breach (contempt of court):
• It is absolutely barred to report the confidential information or any kind of disclosure.
• It also extends to any information sought from the judgment or order to identify the parties.
• The media houses and others are strictly mandated to follow these rules, otherwise it would amount to contempt of court.4
To sum up, the Bombay High Court has taken a strong initiative to stop the misuse of media trial and attempts to make the proceedings under POSH Act strictly confidential. Though a positive act done with the right intention, avoiding online proceedings are a matter of concern. As the parties going to court can be identified by any person and a virtual safe space with all security measures can speed up the delivery of justice.
- Convention on the Rights of the Child art. 16, Nov 20 1989.
- UN General Assembly, United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (”The Beijing Rules”): resolution adopted by the General Assembly, 29 November 1985, A/RES/40/33. Sept 29,, 2021, 9:34 PM)
- Sharmeen Hakim, No Media Reporting, Public Disclosure Of POSH Case Judgments Without Prior Approval : Bombay High Court Issues Guidelines To Shield Anonymity, (Sept 29, 2022, 6: 13 PM),
- P v. R and Ors, suit no. 142 of 2021.