The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, while granting relief to a man convicted seven years ago, has said that following, abusing and pushing a woman can’t attract the offence of outraging the modesty under Section 354 of IPC.
“The act of following and abusing the complainant may be annoying, but definitely would not shock the sense of decency of a woman,” Justice Anil Pansare held while acquitting a 36-year-old man, a labourer from Wardha.
According to a report in The Times of India, the complainant, a college student, claimed the accused followed and abused her. Once, he followed her on the bicycle and shoved her when she was going to the market.
She claimed she ignored him but the man didn’t stop. She thrashed him and lodged a police complaint, the complainant said.
“It is not the case that the petitioner has touched her inappropriately or given a push to a specific part of her body which made her position embarrassing. The contact with the part of her body has not been stated by her. Merely because the applicant on bicycle pushed her, to my mind cannot be said to be an act which is capable of shocking the sense of her decency,” the judge observed.
The JMFC court convicted the man under Section 354 of IPC on May 9, 2016, sentencing him to two years with a fine of Rs 2,000. He approached the Sessions Court, which dismissed his appeal.
The petitioner contested both orders through a revision application in HC through counsel Ashwin Ingole.
Noting that there were only three witnesses in the case, including the woman, Justice Pansare said there is no other evidence to bring home the petitioner’s guilt except her testimony.
“Her evidence is not sufficient to attract ingredients of Section 354. The prosecution, therefore, failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt. The courts below have committed errors in not applying the law to the admitted facts and, thus, rendered incorrect findings. The petitioner has, therefore, made out a case.”
The TOI report added that the judge, quoting a Supreme Court’s verdict, said the essence of a woman’s modesty is her gender, which she possesses by birth. “The apex court has held that the ultimate test for ascertaining whether modesty has been outraged is whether the action of the offender is such as could be perceived as one which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman,” he concluded.