The Bombay High Court granted anticipatory bail to a man accused of outraging the modesty of a woman who worked in his office as an Assistant. After examining the facts of the case, Court held that though the offence would definitely fall under the offence of sexual harassment (Section 354A), it is slightly doubtful as to whether it would fall U/s.354 of the IPC.
Justice Sarang V Kotwal was hearing an anticipatory bail application filed by one Raviraj Gupta. Court noted that the case is solely dependent on the version of the victim. If ultimately it is proved that the allegations are false, then the applicant will suffer irreparable loss if he is arrested, the bench observed.
The FIR was lodged by the victim herself on September 26, 2020. She has stated in her FIR that, she had joined M/s. RR Associates since September 18, 2020. They had their office at Santacruz. She was employed as an Office Assistant. On September 25, 2020, she attended her duty at 7:30 am and the applicant came to the office at 11:30 am. He went out for some time and returned at 2:00 pm. Then, he started discussing some work with the informant. While she was sitting on a chair, the applicant touched her inappropriately. The informant moved away. The applicant again came near her and again touched her inappropriately. The informant got scared. Thus, according to the informant, her modesty was outraged.
She immediately told the applicant that she did not approve of his behaviour. At that time, the applicant accepted what she told him. After that, for two hours the applicant did not speak to her. After two hours he tried to tell the informant that in their profession all that was acceptable and that, if she cooperated, he would raise her salary. At that time, the informant told the applicant that she did not want to continue with her job. In the evening, at 7 pm, she went home and told her mother about the incident. They decided to lodge FIR and on the next day, the FIR on these allegations was lodged.
Dr. Abhinav Chandrachud appeared on behalf of the accused and submitted that the allegations at the highest may show the offence U/s.354-A of IPC which is a bailable offence, but offence U/s.354 of IPC is not made out. The essential ingredients of section 354 of IPC are lacking. The applicant cannot be denied bail in this offence, but the applicant has apprehension of being arrested and, therefore, he deserves protection of anticipatory bail, Dr.Chandrachud argued.
Court noted that APP Amol Palkar could not show how essential ingredients of section 354 of IPC were reflected in the allegations, though, outraging of modesty was sufficiently established by the allegations. APP Palkar could not show how force was involved in the entire episode. However, he submitted that the applicant had given a false address in the cause title of the application and that he had not cooperated with the investigation at all, the bench observed.
After examining Section 354, then bench noted-
"The essential ingredients of this section are; using criminal force or assault. Section 349 of the IPC defines 'Force'. Section 350 of the IPC defines 'Criminal Force' and section 351 of the IPC defines 'Assault'. All these definitions are interlinked. In the peculiar facts of the case, it is doubtful as to whether these ingredients were present when the offence took place. However, observing anything in this behalf would be premature. This will have to be decided during a full-fledged trial. Today I am only considering whether custodial interrogation of the applicant is necessary and, therefore, whether anticipatory bail should be granted to him."
Then, Justice Kotwal observed that it is always difficult to find corroboration because this offence normally takes place in privacy. Court noted that although at the first instance, the applicant touched the informant inappropriately at around 2 pm, she did not immediately leave the office or did not express her grievance to anyone else. This is understandable, Justice Kotwal said.
However, the applicant did not use any force to prevent the informant from going out or he did not restrict her movement. After two hours he made an indecent proposal. It was rejected immediately by the first informant. Even thereafter she continued working in the office till about 7 pm and then she went home. On the next day she lodged her FIR, Court noted. The judgment records-
"In such cases, delay of a day in lodging the FIR does not make real difference. But the fact remains that till 7 pm the applicant had not assaulted her, had not used criminal force on her or he had not threatened her. Thus, though the offence would definitely fall U/s.354-A of the IPC. it is slightly doubtful as to whether it would fall U/s.354 of the IPC. But as mentioned earlier, this will have to be decided at the time of trial. At this stage, these allegations and the defence hang in balance for deciding the question whether section 354 of IPC is made out or not.
The case is solely dependent on the version of the victim. If ultimately it is proved that the allegations are false, then the applicant will suffer irreparable loss if he is arrested."
Thus, the application for anticipatory bail was allowed.
Click Here To Download Order