West, Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi: In a case wherein it is alleged that the accused committed the offence punishable under Section 509 of Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), as the accused started hurling abuses in a filthy language and started to quarrel with the complainant, Devanshu Sajlan, J., held that the court cannot presume that the filthy/ abusive language used amounted to insulting the modesty of the complainant and the prosecution was required to prove the same.
An FIR was registered under Section 509 IPC, and post investigation on finding a prima facie case against accused, notice under section 509 IPC was served in terms of section 251 Criminal Procedure Code.
The Court remarked that even if the version of the prosecution is believed to be true, it appears that there was a quarrel between the parties related to leakage of water, which led to use of alleged abusive language by the accused. The alleged abusive language appears to have been made in the context of a quarrel/ fight and there is no evidence on record that the said language was used with any sexual overtones.
Placing reliance on Abhijeet J.K. v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 703 the gravamen of Section 509 IPC is the intent to ‘insult the modesty’ of a woman. It is a settled position of law that there is distinction between an act of merely insulting a woman and an act of insulting the modesty of a woman. In order to attract section 509 IPC, merely insulting a woman is not sufficient and insult to the modesty of a woman is required to have been done.
The term ‘modesty’ was defined by Supreme Court in Raju Pandurang Mahale v. State of Maharashtra, (2004) 4 SCC 371, as the essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex, i.e., modesty is a virtue which attaches to a female owing to her sex. Thus, the Court noted 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, keeping in mind that the essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex.
Keeping in view, that in criminal law, the burden of proof on the prosecution is that of beyond reasonable doubt, in the present case, the prosecution has failed to prove or bring on record the nature of alleged abuses hurled at the complainant as the only allegation made is that when she visited the accused to complain about leakage of water from AC, “the accused started abusing her in very filthy language and started quarrelling with her, which is not sufficient.
Relying on the definition of “verbal abuse” given in Black’s Law Dictionary (9th edn.), it does not include ‘insults’ within its meaning and cannot be equated with insult to modesty of a woman. The Court observed that it cannot presume that the filthy/ abusive language used amounted to insulting the modesty of the complainant especially when the prosecution has failed to bring on record the nature and wording of insults which were hurled towards the complainant.
The Court held that the prosecution was required to prove the offence under Section 509 IPC beyond reasonable doubt, which the prosecution has failed to do as Apart from the allegation of usage of abusive/ filthy language, there is nothing specific on record which points towards the guilt of the accused.
[State v. Ankit Shukla, 2022 SCC OnLine Dis Crt (Del) 45, decided on 30-09-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case:
Vijay Dagar, Ld. APP, Advocate, for the State;
Aditya Kale, Ld., Advocate, Counsel for the accused.
*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this report together.