Bom HC | Sexual harassment of a woman at a place, where she is working to earn her livelihood is a disgrace meted out to her at the hands of abuser

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Sadhana S. Jadhav and N.J. Jamadar, JJ., observed a matter wherein an adolescent girl who was employed as a maid to earn a livelihood was sexually harassed by the son of her owner.

Appellant was convicted for the offence punishable under Section 376 of the Penal Code, 1860 by the Lower Court.

Factual Matrix

X, a helpless adolescent girl was working as a maid servant to earn her livelihood. She had approached the police station to lodge an FIR.

She alleged that her father had got her employed as a maid with Jahangir owner of Hotel Sai-Village at Shirdi. Mr Jahangir’s wife and two children i.e. present accused 1 and his sister Farhad were original residents of Geeta Bhavan, Bombay. Jahangir’s wife, i.e. accused 2 had brought X to Bombay to work at their residence. After a few days, the sister of the victim was also employed with the mother of accused 2.

Victim alleged that she was molested and ravished by accused 1. Due to fear and apprehension she couldn’t disclose the whole truth to accused 2 and hence ended up stating that she was being teased by accused 1.

She also had conceived pregnancy from accused 1. All efforts to abort the foetus were taken by accused 2. Later she was admitted to Asha Sadan after which she was admitted to hospital and gave birth to a child. Accused 2 asked the victim to leave the child at Asha Sadan but the victim refused to do so.

Hence she was allowed to take the child along.

Victim’s child was snatched by the sister of accused 2 with the assurance that it would be returned in a few months.

Accused 2 kept harassing the victim and did not allow her to return to her native place. Thereafter, the victim somehow eloped from the place and returned to her native place and lodged the FIR.

Analysis and Decision

Bench while considering the facts and circumstances of the matter, stated that it is a settled law that the evidence of rape victim stands at par with the injured witness.

Court held that evidence of the victim of sexual offence deserves to be considered with great weightage. The facts and circumstances corroborate the evidence of the victim and leave no room for suspicion that the victim was ravished by none other than the accused 1.

A rape victim is left with a feeling of degradation, humiliation and guilt for the whole life.

Offence of rape is a heinous offence which cannot be viewed with any leniency. Once the Court finds the evidence of victim to be trustworthy, conviction would follow and said conviction should be followed by a sentence proportionate to the gravity of the offence. Social position of the accused is totally irrelevant.

Supreme Court has time and again said that the society cannot look upon a woman with derision, depravity, contempt and as an object of desire.

Demise of the Child

Court observed in the instant case that, the injury sustained by a rape victim is not just a physical injury, but an injury to her womanhood. She is forced to live with indignation throughout her life and in the present case, she had given birth to a child who lived with her for hardly 6 days and thereafter, the child was brutally snatched, abandoned and had died.

A scar on the Victim

Victim was not even informed of the demise of her child, but the said injury would definitely leave a scar on her further development as a person.

It is not just a physical injury, but injury to the soul of a victim. In the present case, Ms X had attained motherhood at a young age of 15 years.

Hence, in view of the above, appeal deserves to be dismissed.

Further, Criminal Appeal No. 919 of 2006 was filed by the State with regard to meager sentence imposed upon accused 1 despite his conviction for an offence punishable under Section 376 IPC.

The Court is duty-bound to assign special and adequate reason for imposing a sentence lesser than the minimum.

Heinous Offence

Bench stated that High Courts cannot be oblivious of the impact of such a heinous offence.

The object of deterrence in the commission of such heinous offence cannot be lost sight of while sentencing. Once the accused is convicted, the victim also deserves justice.

Dishonour of a woman needs to be eliminated and judicial pronouncement, which imposes a disproportionately lenient sentence, needs to be set aside.

Sessions Court had acquitted the accused 1 despite there being material evidence. Therefore, it was incumbent upon the State to file an appeal against acquittal, in view of the fact that the victim was subjected to harassment, she was brutally assaulted, she was forced to abandon her child, which in fact is an offence punishable under Section 317 IPC.

While parting with the decision, Court stated that the quantum of sentence of the accused convicted under Section 376 IPC cannot be viewed with leniency. Hence, the sentence imposed upon the respondent/accused 1 deserves to be enhanced and appeal for enhancement deserves to be allowed. [Faiyaz v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 3561, decided on 08-12-2020]

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