N Tuesday, Mumbai-based legal researcher and writer Hamza Lakdawala wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI), N.V. Ramana, requesting him to issue directions for the removal of the personal addresses of litigants displayed on the Supreme Court’s website. The Supreme Court’s website displays the full residential addresses of both petitioners and respondents under the “case status” tab.
Lakdawala noted that publishing it on the website opens the door for potential misuse. In his letter, he suggested that adherence to the adage of ‘prevention is better than cure’ would prove favorable.
The letter also mentioned the current reality of the world we live in as grounds for the need to suppress information revealing people’s addresses. Referring to “social media and the polarization of opinions that feed off on hate and vitriol”, the letter argued that no legal purpose was served by communication of the address on the case-status section of the Court, thus not necessitating the display of the same. Lakdawala also pointed out that in case of need, the addresses would still be available in the pleadings filed before the Court, as required by law.
Maintaining that the Court is entitled to know the identity and addresses of the parties before it, the letter suggested that this information be suppressed on the Supreme Court website in matters pertaining to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA), Sections 124-A (sedition) and 153-A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc) of the Indian Penal Code, or in cases where other serious criminal charges are invoked and there is a danger of vigilantism against the parties.
Further, the request points out that identities and addresses could also be suppressed in instances where the parties have approached the court in cases of honor killing, vigilantism and apprehension for life for persons in inter-caste or inter-religion marriages, and so on.
Lakdawala, who is presently pursuing an LL.B. degree, also attached a screenshot of the case details of Diary No. 27345/2021, titled as Mukesh vs. State of Tripura, available on the Supreme Court’s website. The said petition was filed by lawyers Mukesh and Ansarul Haq, and journalist Shyam Meera Singh, for the quashing of a first information report registered against them under UAPA for tweeting about the communal violence which took place in Tripura a few weeks ago. Lakdawala said that “the publication of their addresses on the Supreme Court website provides for their exact locations to those who may wish harm upon them due to personal or political differences.”
Apart from the request to remove personal information relating to the display of litigants’ full addresses on the website, the letter also prayed for guidelines to be issued to prohibit the public display of such sensitive information in the future, not only by the Supreme Court, but also by the various high courts and tribunals.
Disclosure: Hamza Lakdawala is a frequent contributor to The Leaflet, and is currently a Research Associate at the Chambers of Senior Advocate Ms. Indira Jaising, who is a co-founder of The Leaflet.