28 Nov 2022 3:30 AM GMT
A Metropolitan Magistrates Court in Mumbai has held Section 354 of the IPC as being gender neutral qua the offender, and thus convicted and sentenced a mother of three to one-year rigorous imprisonment for outraging another woman's modesty. "Section 354 of the IPC, therefore, operates equality upon all persons whether males or females and it cannot be maintained that woman are...
A Metropolitan Magistrates Court in Mumbai has held Section 354 of the IPC as being gender neutral qua the offender, and thus convicted and sentenced a mother of three to one-year rigorous imprisonment for outraging another woman's modesty.
"Section 354 of the IPC, therefore, operates equality upon all persons whether males or females and it cannot be maintained that woman are exempted from any punishment under this section," Metropolitan Magistrate Manoj Vasantrao Chavan observed.
The bench underscored that Section 354 IPC is "not a sexual offence" but falls under the chapter of 'Criminal Force and Assault' and its necessary ingredients include using criminal force with the intent or knowledge to outrage a woman's modesty.
Accused Rovena Bhosale was thus convicted under sections 323 and 354 of the IPC, for assaulting her neighbour and tearing her nightdress in the building passage in front of several other people on September 19, 2020 due to a long-standing dispute.
The prosecution examined six witnesses, including two of their neighbours who witnessed the entire incident. One of them told the court that the victim was beaten with a shoe and was completely naked after her nightdress was torn. The APP argued that all the charges were proved against the accused, however, advocate for the accused argued that both women are neighbours, and there was no intention to outrage her modesty. The section wasn't applicable to a woman.
It was the prosecution's case that the accused was jealous of her mother and the victim's closeness. The victim is a mother of two children.
At the outset the bench found the testimonies of the neighbours believable. Regarding Section 354 IPC the judge said that a "woman can assault or use criminal force to any other woman as equally and effectively as any man." Moreover, a woman is not "incapable" of outraging the modesty of another woman just by the virtue of being a woman.
The bench held the pronoun "he" used in section 354 IPC to mean a male or a female based on section 8 of the IPC. "It is thus clear that under section 354 IPC, a man as well as a woman can be held guilty of the offence of assaulting or using criminal force to any woman with the intention or knowledge that the woman's modesty will be outraged and be punished for the offence."
Referring to the evidence on record the judge further observed that "by beating the informant and tearing her nightie, the accused has infringed the right of privacy of informant." The court held that force used against a woman becomes criminal when it is applied without or consent or against her will.
The bench discarded allegations of verbal abuse against the accused in the absence of substantial corroboration. It further refused the accused benefit under the Probation of Offender Act 1958. "The accused being woman should be protective and sensitive towards the informant."
However, the court noted that the accused was a mother of three, the youngest child being merely 1.5 years old, therefore she was awarded the minimum punishment prescribed under the section.
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