Regular-article-logo Thursday, 07 December 2023

Privacy rules in family disputes

HC rein on trend to reveal sensitive details

TT Bureau Published 13.06.15, 12:00 AM

New Delhi, June 12 (PTI): Delhi High Court has issued guidelines to family courts to check a "growing trend" among litigants and their lawyers to readily disclose personal details in matrimonial and custody disputes.

The directives were prompted by the discovery that a child's personal diary was filed along with a petition in a custody battle.

A bench of Justices S. Muralidhar and I.S. Mehta has directed family courts to ensure that when litigants seek to rely upon sensitive documents that may affect others' right to privacy or embarrass them, the court should be informed first and the papers should be produced in a sealed cover.

"Till such time that leave is granted, the contents of the said document shall not be extracted in the pleadings or a copy of the whole or part thereof enclosed with the petition.

"For this purpose, a document would include any writing, private letters, notings, photographs and documents in electronic form, including video clips, text messages, chat details, emails, printed copies thereof, CCTV footage...," the court said.

The high court said that "as far as possible and practicable", the family court should hold "in camera" proceedings on such matters.

The bench has also directed litigants to avoid bringing children to the family court regularly unless it has been specifically ordered as "repeated visits to witness the legal contests between and among parents and relatives is not desirable or conducive for the healthy development of children".

The court issued the directives after it found that the personal diary of a child whose parents were fighting over his custody was filed with the petition.

Frowning upon the conduct, the bench had pointed out that a petition, along with accompanying documents, passes through several hands, including clerks and court staff, before it is filed. Hence, the confidentiality of its contents is not ensured.

"All these factors underscore the need to respect the right to privacy of the author, and where it is a child, the best interests of the child," it said.

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