Molestation in India and laws pertaining to the same

Molestation

Molestation

Molestation is a form of a sexual crime and is considered as one of the serious issues. This term has nowhere been defined in the Indian Law. As defined literally, it means that there is a sexual force upon somebody without any consent. This victim can be a child, an adult, irrespective of an age. It can include- forcefully having a sexual contact, showing pornography to any person without any comments, passing sexual verbal comments or any such kind of a behaviour where there is no approval or consent[1]. It has a very wide meaning and cannot be given a comprehensive definition. Though the Indian Law does not define ‘molestation’ but it still has provisions to protect a women’s dignity.  Sections 294, 354, 355 and 509 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 provide for outraging someone’s modesty.

Section 294

Under Section 294, any indecent or obscene act or singing, reciting, pronouncing of the lewd song done by the offender that causes ‘annoyance’ of others in public which cause mental nuisance will be considered molestation and the offender shall be punished with jail up to 3 months or fine or with both. In the case of Zafer Ahmad Khan v. State of Mysore, Court held that the word spoken by the accused (a rikshawala) while addressing to two women, were offensive in nature to the modesty of the women and were likely to create annoyance. For a person to get punished under this Section, the act of the offender must create annoyance either to a person in particular or a general person[2].

Section 354

This Section provides that whoever uses assault or force which is criminal in nature to a woman having an intention to outrage her modesty shall be punished with jail of at least one year which may extend to five years along with fine. In the case of Ram Kripal S/o. Shyamlal Charmakar v. State of Madhya Pradesh[3], the essential ingredients of this section were laid down which are as follows:

  • The assault or the criminal force used must be on a woman i.e. the victim must be woman.
  • There must be an assault or a criminal force used
  • There must be intention to outrage that woman’s modesty.

Though this section specifically provides for the protection of women but it lacks in defining and providing a clear definition of the term ‘modesty’. The meaning of the same can be determined by various case laws as judiciary have contributed in defining the same. In the case of Aman Kumar v. State of Haryana[4], the Court stated that acts like pulling woman’s clothes, removing her clothes to have a sexual intercourse would amount to outraging the modesty of that woman. In the other case[5], the Court stated that since the word ‘modesty’ was not defined under this Act hence it referred to the dictionary meaning of term in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary (3rd edition) which said that ‘womanly propriety of behaviour, scrupulous chastity of thought, speech and conduct.”

Below are some cases where Courts have punished people under this section which also gives us a brief idea about what are the kinds of acts that are considered punishable and offensive under this section.

In State of Punjab v. Major Singh[6], the accused has caused injury to private parts of a girl child who was just 7 and a half months old. This act was considered offensive and the accused was held punishable under this section. It can be analysed from this section that age of a woman is not a factor that is to considered while punishing the offender.

In another case[7], where the victim was cooking in her kitchen and suddenly the accused entered the house and held her breasts. On an investigation, the accused was unable to defend himself and under this section, he was punished.

Section 354-A[8] further provides for sexual harassment and punishment for the same. It enumerates and identifies those acts which constitute the crime for sexual harassment. This section also provides for punishment for these offences individually which extends from one year to three years along with fine if necessary. Section 354-B provides for criminal acts to woman with an intention to disrobe the woman. The acts which are considered as offence are:

  • Woman is assaulted
  • There is a criminal assault.
  • Abetting any of the above acts
  • There is an intention to disrobe the woman

Punishments include imprisonment from one to three years along with fine.

Section 354-C provides for the criminal act of Voyeurism which means that being happy by seeing a scene. It provides that if any man captures any picture or an image of woman without her consent and further engaging in a private act constitutes an offence. Also, broadcasting the images is also an offence. Punishment for the same is jail of one to three years along with fine.

Section 354-D provides for the offence of stalking and under this section, two acts are considered a criminal act:

  • A woman who is followed by a stranger or a man without her consent and further tries to contact her is an offence.
  • Any act where a man follows and controls a woman’s life through mails or internet or through various technologies is an offence.

The punishment provides that if a person committing the offence for the first time is imprisoned which may extend to three years along with fine. Any person committing the same for the second time may be punished for a term of imprisonment which may extend till five years along with fine.

Section 355[9]

It deals with the with an intent to dishonour the person. Punishment will be imprisonment which may extend to two years along with fine.

Section 509

It deals with any word, sign or act with an intention to insult a modesty of the woman. In the case of Phiraz Mohammed[10], it was held that the most essential element is the intention to insult the modesty of a woman. In a case where a University Graduate wrote a letter to a nurse containing indecent languages and sent that letter to her. It was held that the nurse’s modesty was outrages[11].

Conclusion

Safety of woman has to be a minimum priority of everyone be it Government or any individual. It is evident that Government has taken various steps and made legislations and provisions in law so as to protect a woman’s dignity and modesty. But the question arises as to why there are crimes committed almost every day. This can be answered through analysing the above sections. The punishment provided to the guilty offenders are not appropriate. The maximum punishment that is provided under sections 354 and 355 is of two years along with fine. In a case[12] where a Pujari molested a nine-year-old girl and was sentenced to one-year imprisonment. Here the offender molested a minor and committed a severe crime and deserved a more serious punishment. This can even imply that people can commit these crimes and escape with just two years of jail. There are reforms that are very necessary to be made so as to provide justice to the victims. Firstly, legal system should provide with legal definition of the term ‘modesty’. Secondly, specific punishments must me provided for specific acts. Our law should be very well defined as we rely upon our laws and the system to provide us with fair justice.

“The views of the authors are personal

Reference:

[1]https://legal.blurtit.com/424663/whats-the-difference-between-rape-and-molestation

[2] AIR 1963 All. 105

[3] 2007 II Cri. L.J. 2302 (S.C.)

[4] AIR 2004 SCC 1497

[5]RupanDeol Bajaj v. KPS Gill, (1995) 6 SCC 194

[6] AIR 1967 SC 63.

[7] Baldeo Prasad Singh v. State, 1984 Cri. L.J. (NOC) 122 (Orissa)

[8] A man committing any of the following acts—

  • physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or
  • a demand or request for sexual favours; or
  • showing pornography against the will of a woman; or
  • making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment

2. Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (i) or clause (ii) or clause (iii) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

3. Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

[9]Assault or criminal force with intent to dishonour person, otherwise than on grave provocation.—Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any person, intending thereby to dishonour that person, otherwise than on grave and sudden provocation given by that person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either de­scription for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

[10] (1983) 5 Bom. LR. 502

[11]Tarak Das Gupta, (1925) 28 Bom. LR. 90.

[12] Girdhar Gopal v. State, AIR 1953 Madh. B. 147

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