Ker HC | Act of affront to the decency and dignity of a woman cannot be considered as trivial in nature

Kerala High Court: R. Narayana Pisharadi, J., while dismissing the petition in regard to quashing of FIR and final report that alleges petitioner of being punishable for offence under Section 509 of Penal Code, 1860, referred to the Supreme Court decision of Deputy Inspector General v. Samuthiram, (2013) 1 SCC 598, wherein it was held that,

“…Sexual harassment like eve-teasing of women amounts to violation of rights guaranteed under Article 14, Article 15 as well. We notice in the absence of effective legislation to contain eve-teasing, normally, complaints are registered under Section 294 or Section 509 IPC. …… Eve teasing today has become pernicious, horrid and disgusting practice. ….. More and more girl students, women etc. go to educational institutions, work places etc. and their protection is of extreme importance to a civilized and cultured society.”

Facts of the present case are,

De facto complainant while proceeding to her house was approached by a motorcyclist who invited her to accompany him on his bike and further also made sexual gesture to her with his hand.

Further based on written complaint by the victim, a case was registered by the petitioner, after which on completion of the investigation a final report was filed against the petitioner for an offence punishable under Section 509 of IPC.

The present petition was thus filed under Section 482 CrPC for quashing of FIR & final report registered against the petitioner.

Petitioner’s counsel raised 3 grounds:

  • Allegations made against the petitioner in FIR do not attract the offence punishable under Section 509 IPC
  • Allegations raised in final report do not disclose commission of an offence punishable under Section 509 IPC
  • Acts allegedly committed by petitioner are trivial in nature and they come within the purview of Section 95 of IPC.

“Section 509 IPC provides that whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished.”

Further, it is to be noted that, there is a distinction between an act of merely insulting a woman and act of insulting the modesty of a woman.

To attract Section 509 IPC, merely insulting a woman is not sufficient. Insult to the modesty of a woman is an essential ingredient of an offence punishable under Section 509 IPC. Crux of the offence is the intention to insult the modesty of a woman.

In the case of Rupan Deol Bajaj v. K.P.S Gill, (1995) 6 SCC 194, it was stated that,

 “If the word uttered or the gesture made could be perceived as one which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman, then it can be found that it is an act of insult to the modesty of the woman.”

 In the instant case, petitioner and the victim were not previously acquainted with each other. Therefore it cannot be found that the intention of the petitioner was to give the victim a lift or free ride on the motorcycle, on account of friendship or relationship with her.

Acts allegedly committed by the petitioner amount to an affront to her feminine decency. Invitation made to the victim contained an insinuation that she was a woman of easy virtue who was ready and willing to go with any man during night.

Counsel for the petitioner contended that — intention has to be gathered from the act complained of and the circumstances under which it is committed.

Adding to his contentions, he also stated that if even the alleged acts were committed by the petitioner they were trivial in nature and should come within the purview of Section 95 of IPC. He also relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Veeda Menezez v. Yusuf Khan, AIR 1966 SC 1773.

Act of affront to the decency and dignity of a woman cannot be considered as trivial in nature.

 It is to be noted that Section 354 IPC prescribes the punishment for outraging the modesty of a woman by an act of assault or use of criminal force. In spite of the existence of the aforesaid provision, legislature has incorporated Section 509 IPC, making punishable even a verbal attack of insulting the modesty of a woman.

Thus, in Court’s opinion, the contentions of the petitioner cannot be accepted and petition stands dismissed. [Abhijeet J.K. v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 703, decided on 20-02-2020]

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