The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court held that throwing a chit of paper at a married woman professing love for her amounts to outraging her modesty under Sections 354 and 509 of the IPC.
Justice Rohit B Deo observed that the modesty of a woman is her “most precious jewel” while maintaining that there cannot be a concrete formula to determine whether modesty of a woman has been outraged.
“Mrs. “S” is a married woman, aged 45 years and the very act of throwing a chit on her person which professes love for her and which contains poetic verses, albeit extremely, purely written is sufficient to outrage the modesty of a woman. The modesty of a woman is her most precious jewel and there cannot be a straitjacket formula to ascertain whether modesty is outraged,” the Court said.
The order was passed on a revision petition by applicant-accused Shrikrushna against a judgment rendered by Judicial Magistrate, Akola on June 21 holding him guilty of offence punishable under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The magistrate had sentenced him to suffer rigorous imprisonment for two years and also imposed a fine of Rs. 10,000.
The allegation was that the accused, a grocery shop owner approached Mrs. S while she was washing utensils and handed her a chit. On refusing to accept it, the applicant threw the chit at her and left muttering “I love you”
As per the submission by Mrs. S, the applicant was also flirting with her on earlier occasions and used to throw small pebbles at her.
Aggrieved by constant harassment, Mrs. S lodged a police complaint, and the same was registered under Sections 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 509 (Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Magistrate found the applicant guilty under Sections 354, 506 and 509.
The High Court found the convention under 506 is unsustainable.
However, the Court found that the view taken with respect to the charges under Sections 354 and 509 was plausible and observed that there was no reason for the Court to disbelieve the evidence by Mrs. S in that regard.
“The evidence of Mrs. “S” that the applicant used to flirt, make gestures like pouting of lips, on occasions used to hit her with small pebbles is confidence inspiring and in exercise of revisional jurisdiction, I would be loath to disagree with the concurrent findings of Courts below based on appreciation of evidence on record.”
Despite upholding the conviction, the Court observed that the applicant deserves a chance to reform and further incarceration would be of no avail. Therefore, sentence was modified to the period of 45 days already undergone.
The trial court had directed the applicant to pay fine of ₹10,000 and ₹30,000 for offences punishable under Sections 354 and 509 of the IPC respectively.
The High Court, however, enhanced the fine to ₹50,000 and ₹40,000 for the offence under Sections 354 and 509 respectively.
Further, in addition to the amount of ₹35,000 that was ordered to be paid to the victim as compensation, an additional fine of ₹50,000 was imposed.
The Court also directed the trial court to ensure that the victim is made aware of the judgement and the enhanced fine is paid to her.
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