The Kerala High Court recently refused to quash a criminal case against a man accused of following a woman, a total stranger to him, and inviting her to accompany him in his motor cycle.
Justice R. Narayana Pisharadi observed that commission of acts, which may not necessarily involve even any physical advances or assault, is also made punishable under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code.
The woman had lodged a complaint before the Police Station alleging that the accused followed him and made sexual gestures to her with his hand while she was walking through a public road. After completing the investigation, final report was filed against the accused for an offence under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code.
While dismissing his petition filed under Section 482 CrPC, Justice Pisharadi observed that the acts allegedly committed by the accused amount to an affront to the feminine decency of the de-facto complainant.
"The petitioner followed her on a motorcycle. He approached her and invited her to accompany him. The petitioner and the victim lady were not previously acquainted with each other. They were total strangers. Therefore, it cannot be found that the intention of the petitioner was to give the victim lady a lift or a free ride on the motorcycle, on account of friendship or relationship with her. There is also an allegation against him that he made sexual gesture to the victim lady with the middle finger of his hand. If the acts allegedly committed by the petitioner are considered in the light of the facts and circumstances of the case, prima facie, it can be found that his intention was to insult the modesty of the victim lady. The acts allegedly committed by the petitioner amount to an affront to her feminine decency. Such acts could be perceived as capable of shocking the sense of decency of the victim lady. The invitation made by the petitioner to the lady contained an insinuation that she was a woman of easy virtue who was ready and willing to go with any man during night."
Rejecting the contention that the acts allegedly committed r are trivial in nature and they come within the purview of Section 95 I.P.C., the Court said:
The petitioner had allegedly invited the victim lady, a stranger to him, to accompany him on the motorcycle during night time. Such an act cannot be considered as trivial in nature. The question whether an act is trivial in nature or not does not depend merely upon the fact whether any physical harm was caused or not. An act of affront to the decency and dignity of a woman cannot be considered as trivial in nature.
The Court also delineated the scope of Section 509 IPC as follows:
Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code provides that, whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and also with fine.Utterance of any word or making of any sound or gesture by a person, intending to insult the modesty of a woman, attracts the offence punishable under Section 509 I.P.C, if such act was made intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture shall be seen by such woman.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 I.P.C, merely insulting a woman is not sufficient. Insult to the modesty of a woman is an essential ingredient of an offence punishable under Section 509 I.P.C. The crux of the offence is the intention to insult the modesty of a woman.Section 509 I.P.C criminalises a 'word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman' and in order to establish this offence it is necessary to show that the modesty of a particular woman or a readily identifiable group of women has been insulted by a spoken word, gesture or physical act (See Khushboo v. Kanniammal : AIR 2010 SC 3196).The essence of a woman's modesty is her sex. The modesty of an adult female is writ large on her body. Young or old, intelligent or imbecile, awake or sleeping, the woman possesses modesty (See State of Punjab v. Major Singh : AIR 1967 SC 63). Modesty is a virtue which attaches to a female owing to her sex (See Raju Pandurang Mahale v. State of Maharashtra : AIR 2004 SC 1677).If the word uttered or the gesture made could be perceived as one which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman, then it can be found that it is an act of insult to the modesty of the woman (See Rupan Deol Bajaj v. K. P. S. Gill : AIR 1996 SC 309).
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