Direction issued to maintain confidentiality of ‘sensitive documents’

Delhi High Court: Showing
concern over a very serious issue of infringement of right to privacy in cases
where the lawyers produce very personal documents of the parties as an evidence
before the Court, a division bench of S. Muralidhar and I.S. Mehta JJ., issued
directions to the lower courts with respect to the steps which should be taken
into care while producing documents before the court which is of a ‘sensitive

In the instant
case, the appellant is seeking the permanent custody of his minor children, and
for that he produced the ‘personal diary’ maintained by one of his child before
the Court to show that he desires to stay with his father even after his
vacations are over. The Court stated that contents of the document reflect inter alia the very private and personal
feelings and opinions of a young child about his parents, sibling, friends and
relatives, and it is not something which should be casually placed in the
public domain to violate the right of privacy of the author of the diary as
well as person named in the diary thereto. The Court noted that “where
litigants themselves do not realize the implications for the right to privacy
and dignity of the parties involved in litigation, the Court expects the
lawyers handling the litigation to display that understanding of the legal

The Court issued
the following directions to maintain the confidentiality of ‘sensitive

where a party in a case seeks to
rely upon a document (any writing, private letters, notings, photographs,
and documents in electronic form including video clips, text messages,
chat details, emails, printed copies thereof, CCTV footage etc.) which is
of a sensitive nature and contain details of personal or private nature,
then the party or lawyer of such party shall have to firstly seek leave of
the court to produce such document in a sealed cover, and till the leave
is not granted, the contents of the said document shall not be extracted
in the pleadings or enclosed with the petition.
where the party/ Family Court on
its own, comes upon a document on record in the case which is prima facie
of a sensitive nature, which when disclosed is likely to affect the right
to privacy or cause embarrassment, the court will pass appropriate orders
to preserve such document in a sealed cover, de-seal it for being produced
during court proceedings and re-seal it again after the purpose for which
they are directed to be produced is over
Family Court can also pass
necessary directions regarding the making of copies, use, preservation and
dissemination of such documents with a view to maintain its
Family Court should as far as
possible and practicable invoke the power under Section 11 of the Family
Courts Act 1984 and hold the proceedings in camera.

Lastly, the Court
stated that the parties should avoid bringing children to the Family Court on a
routine basis, as it would affect healthy development of children. [X v. Z, , decided
on 11.06.2015]
Source: Legal news India

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