Case BriefsHigh Courts

Sikkim High Court: A Division Bench of Meenakshi Madan Rai and Bhaskar Raj Pradhan, JJ., while addressing a case of offence under Section 354 A of Penal Code, 1860 for sexual harassment of a student by the teacher, held that,

If any person uses criminal force upon any woman with the intention or knowledge that woman’s modesty will be outraged he is to be punished.

Applicant filed the present application praying to be released on probation under Section 4 and 12 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 read with Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Senior Counsel B. Sharma submitted on behalf of the applicant that he is of good character and good conduct.  He is also suffering from various ailments and considering that the penalty is imposed under Section 354A IPC, he be released on probation.

Further, Public Prosecutor submitted that the respondent had made no grounds to establish that he satisfied the ingredients of Section 4 of the probation of Offenders Act.

He also placed reliance on Ajahar Ali v. State of W.B.,(2013) 10 SCC 31 it was contended that the offence committed therein was one under Section 354 IPC, Supreme Court held that it was a heinous crime and the modesty of the woman had to be strongly guarded and refused to grant the relief under Section 4 of the Probation of Offenders Act.

Decision

Bench stated that from the submission of the respondent’s counsel it is clear that no grounds were made by him to establish the good character of the offender or that consideration ought to be taken of the nature of the offence.

Respondent used criminal force upon the victim which by no stretch of imagination can it be stated to be decent behaviour. Further, the Court added that, as Public Prosecutor pointed out in the decision of Ajay Tiwari v. University of Delhi, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 11360, it was held that the,

teacher should be more like a “loco parentis” and that is the duty, responsiblity and cahrge expected of a teacher.

In the present case, the student was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances of respondent her teacher.

Thus, it is clear that offences of sexual harassment to a woman cannot be taken lightly and should be dealt sternly, therefore, the prayer of the respondent stands rejected. [State of Sikkim v. Sashidhar Sharma, 2020 SCC OnLine Sikk 7, decided on 19-02-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: Manoj Kumar Ohri, J. allowed a revision petition filed against the judgment of the trial court whereby the petitioner was convicted for offence punishable under Section 354-A IPC (sexual harassment).

On the day of the incident, the petitioner was acting as an invigilator inside the examination hall where the complainant was writing her History subject examination paper. It was alleged that the petitioner made unwelcome physical contact with the complainant involving explicit sexual overtures against her. Further, he met the complainant nearby the bus stand and uttered certain words towards her intending to insult her modesty and intrude upon her privacy. The trial court found the allegations proved and convicted the petitioner as aforesaid. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner approached the High Court.

At the outset, the High Court noted that an accused can be convicted on the sole testimony of the prosecutrix, but in the instant case, the Court was of the opinion that the complainant’s testimony was not such as to inspire confidence. It found many discrepancies and improvements in her statements as was evident from the record of the case.

Perusing the impugned order, it was noted, inter alia, that the trial court, as well as the Appellate Court, relied upon the suggestion given on behalf of the petitioner to the complaint that she had already obtained the phone number of the petitioner after leaving the examination hall and that is how she knew the same. The Appellate Court observed that the suggestion essentially goes to show that the petitioner himself had admitted the possession of his phone number with the complainant. However, in High Court’s opinion, the question of whether a suggestion given by the counsel on behalf of the accused can be considered as admission and bind the accused under Section 18 of Evidence Act is to be answered in negative. Referring to earlier decisions, according to the Court, the plea or defence put forward by the lawyer of the accused cannot bind him. The lawyer has no implied authority to admit the guilt or facts incriminating the accused.

In light of the inconsistencies and the improvements made by the complainant during her deposition and in absence of any corroborating evidence to support her statement, the Court was of the opinion that the testimony of the complainant does not inspire confidence. It was held that the prosecution failed to prove the case against the petitioner, the finding of guilt recorded by the trial court and the Appellate Court was manifestly illegal and perverse. Resultantly, the revision petition was allowed. The petitioner’s conviction was set aside. [Pawan Kumar v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 10452, decided on 10-10-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of R.K. Gauba, J. dismissed a petition filed under Section 482 CrPC for quashing of FIR registered under Sections 354-A, 354-D and 509 IPC.

The first informant was a married woman. Her husband was running a bad health and she was constrained to look for gainful employment. With help of the petitioner, she started working in a private company where the petitioner was also employed as a supervisor. In the FIR, the first informant narrated incidents where the petitioner made indecent proposals to her; made unwanted physical contacts and advances with sexual overtures; and passed sexually coloured remarks. Such acts amount to sexual harassment under Section 354-A IPC. The allegations also indicated assault on the person of first informant, knowing fully well that thereby her modesty was being outraged.

The High Court took note of the new criminal law as amended after the public outcry in wake of certain serious crimes involving sexual assaults. The Court was of the view that such offences, as mentioned in the FIR reflect mental depravity, to say the least. The petitioner was trying to take undue advantage of a helpless and hapless woman. Women and girls cannot be allowed to become easy prey for lecherous kind in civilised society. Relying on the Supreme Court decision in Parbatbhai Ahir v. State of Gujarat, (2017) 9 SCC 641, the Court held that the first informant, having done her duty as an awakened citizen, cannot now put a lid on the matter. The case goes beyond her personal grouse. Allowing such charges to be quashed only because the petitioner may have apologised to her would not only trivialize the issue but also set a bad precedent. Having regard to the aforementioned, the Court declined to entertain the prayer in the petition. The petition was, hence, dismissed. [Roshan Lal v. State (NCT of Delhi),2018 SCC OnLine Del 10704, dated 27-07-2018]