ASSAULT OR CRIMINAL FORCE TO WOMAN WITH INTENT TO OUTRAGE HER MODESTY
SECTION 354 IPC
Sec.354 IPC states any act of criminal force committed on a woman to outrage her modesty. The term Modesty has been defined nowhere in the Penal Code, but the Supreme Court in the case of Raju Pandurang Mahale v. State of Maharashtra , defined the ingredients that constitute the essentials of the Modesty of a Woman.
In State of Punjab vs. Major Singh, the Supreme Court further stated that outraging the modesty of a woman is an offence. The Supreme Court referred to Modesty as a Feminine decency that every woman possesses owing to her Sex. It has nothing to do with her age and the guilty intention of the accused plays a vital role in determining the offence.
For Example: Pulling a woman, removing her Sari, requesting her for sexual favours, all these actions are intended to hurt her modesty.
The court summed up by saying any act intended to outrage the modesty of a woman leads to Sexual Assault. A person can be charged for both, for outraging the modesty of a woman and for causing sexual assault.
To widen the Scope of Sec.354, 4 new sub Sections were added to it through the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013. These are as follows:
- Section 354 A- Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment
- Section 354 B- Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe
- Section 354 C- Voyeurism
- Section 354 D- Stalking
Delhi High Court in the matter of T Manikadan v. The State (Govt of NCT of Delhi) held that there is no illegality in convicting the accused under the Sec 354, 354 A IPC simultaneously.
Section 354 A- Sexual Harassment and Punishment for Sexual Harassment
To constitute the offence under Sec.354 A, the following conditions needs to be fulfilled
- Physical contact and advances including specific sexual gestures
- A demand or request for any kind of sexual favours
- Showing pornography against the will of a woman
- Making sexually created remarks.
Punishment under Sec.354 A
Rigorous Punishment which can vary from 1 year up till 3 years or fine or both.
Few more examples of Sexual Harassment;
- Unwelcome touching
- Suggestive comments or jokes
- Unwanted invitation to meet in private or for sex
- Intrusive questions about a person’s body or private life
- Unwanted/vulgar text messages or E-mails
- Sending Pornography
Section 354 B- Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force upon another with intent to disrobe her or force her to be naked, is guilty under Sec.354 B and is liable for a prescribed term of punishment.
Salient Features of Sec.354 B are as follows:
- It should have been committed against a woman. It constitutes both: an Act and an Omission.
- To book a charge under Sec.354 B, the accused must have used criminal force or should have assaulted the victim.
- There must have been an intension or knowledge on the part of the accused, that such act would outrage her modesty.
- The liability of the accused cannot be absolved just because the victim did not react or retaliated.
- A female of any age, including an infant can be molested and such acts fall under the ambit of section 354 B.
- An offence under this section is cognizable, non-bailable and triable by any magistrate.
The following landmark Judgements will give a clearer picture about this offence:
1. State of Punjab v. Major Singh, AIR 1967 SC 63
In this case, the accused interfered with the vagina of a seven and half month-old child The Punjab and Haryana high courts held that the modesty of the victim could not be outraged as the victim was of a tender age. However, in an appeal to the Supreme Court, the apex court feelings of the woman against whom such an act is committed. Moreover, where such an intention or knowledge has not been proved, the proof of the fact that the woman felt her modesty was outraged does not constitute an offence, as an intention or knowledge on the part of the accused is the essential ingredient.
Therefore, the appeal was allowed and the accused was convicted by the Supreme Court and was awarded rigorous imprisonment for a period of two years. A fine of rupees 1000/- was to be paid by the accused out of which rupees 500/- was paid as a compensation to the child.
2. Ramkripal Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 2007 (crl.) SC 370
In this landmark case, the Supreme Court finally defined modesty by laying down that the essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex. The term modesty in relation to a woman was defined as “Decorous in manner and conduct; not forward or lower; Shame-fast; scrupulously chaste”. The accused pleaded that he be given a lighter punishment and that he be lest held liable under section 354 for outraging a woman’s modesty. However, as penetration had taken place, the Supreme Court held that it constituted rape. Only acts which stop short of penetration fall under the ambit of section 354 of the IPC. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed.
3. Ram Pratap v. State of Rajasthan
Where the accused allegedly entered the victim’s house when she was alone and forced her to lie on a cot and misbehaved with her, but no preparation to commit rape was done, the accused was held guilty under Sec.354 of the IPC.
PS: Section 354 is gender-neutral and even a woman can outrage the modesty of another woman as the terminology of the section goes “whoever assaults or uses criminal force…”
The main essential required to constitute the offence under this section is the intention of the accused. Since, the state of mind of the victim is not given much importance; this section has been misused on several occasions. Thus, where a man accidentally touches a woman’s belly in a crowded bus and it wasn’t an intention on his part to outrage her modesty, he was held ‘NOT GUILTY.’
Punishment under Sec.354 B
Imprisonment which can vary from 1 year up till 3 years, can be extended to 7 years and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 354 C- Voyeurism
Voyeurism in simple language means the practise of gaining sexual pleasure while watching others naked or while they are engaged in some sexual activity. According to Sec.354 C- any man who captures or watches the image of a woman when she is privately engaged with someone else and she do not want to be seen by anybody else in that particular moment, such a person is guilty of Voyeurism.
Any person found guilty under this section is liable for a punishment
In the first conviction: with imprisonment for a term of min. 1 year which can extend up to 3 years and also a fine.
In the second conviction: with imprisonment for a term of min. 3 years which can extend up to 7 years and also a fine.
An important point to be noted here is that if a woman gives her consent to a man with a note of trust to capture her image or to do any act but with the purpose that it will not be shared with a third person and if that man shares or spread the same image on a wider scale, then he will be liable for punishment under the same offence.
Section 354 D- Stalking
Any man is said to have commit the offence of stalking who:
- Follows a woman or tries/attempts to contact her repeatedly despite an indication
- Monitors any form of electronic information used by her like Internet, e-mail etc.
Exceptions of Sec.354 D:
- If stalking is done with the purpose and responsibility of preventing and detecting the crime by the state
- If its permitted from the law or any other person /condition/requirement imposed under any law
- If such conduct was reasonable and justified in a particular circumstance
Punishment for Stalking;
- On first conviction, with imprisonment for a term which can extend up till 3 years and fine
- On second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of term which can extend up till 5 years, and fine.
In both Voyeurism and stalking, one need not have a direct contact or physical touch with the victim. It is very clear from the above definition and examples, that in the age of Information and Communication Technology, both these offences have breached the barrier of Technology. In the present context, both these offences are witnessed in cyberspace in an alarming proportion and can be easily regarded as offline offences.
Important Case Laws on Sec.354:
State of Sikkim v. Sashidhar Sharma, 2020 SCC – the Court held that if any person uses criminal force upon any woman with the intention or knowledge that woman’s modesty will be outraged he is to be punished.
In the famous Machindra Chate Case, where the owner of the Chate Coaching classes was booked under Sec.354 A, the Bombay High Court has held: Even if you keep your hand on the shoulder of a woman, it is for the lady to comment upon the nature of the touch, whether it was friendly, brotherly or fatherly.
In Rupan Deol Bajaj & Anr.Vs. Kanwar Pal Singh Gill & Anr, famously known as the Butt Slapping Case, and one of the most criticised high profile cases, the court held that slapping Mrs. Bajaj on her posterior amounted to `outraging of her modesty' for it was not only an affront to the normal sense of feminine decency but also an affront to the dignity of the lady.
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