Women can also be held guilty under Section 354 IPC for outraging woman’s modesty: Mumbai Court

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The offence of outraging a woman’s modesty under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) need not necessarily be a sexual act and even women can be held guilty of the offence and not just men, a Mumbai court recently ruled [State of Maharashtra vs Rovena @ Aadnya Amit Bhosle].

Metropolitan Magistrate MV Chavhan noted that the offence under Section 354 is not a sexual offence as it falls under the chapter ‘Criminal Force and Assault’.

Thus, the Court ruled that the offence can be committed by either a man or a woman as even a woman can assault or use criminal force with the intention of outraging another woman’s modesty.

“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. Section 354 IPC, therefore, operate equally upon all persons whether males or females and it cannot be maintained that women are exempted from any punishment under this section,” the Court stated.

It, therefore, convicted a woman under the provision and sentenced her to imprisonment for one year.

The First Information Report (FIR) against the accused was registered in 2020 alleging that she verbally and physically assaulted the informant and tore her clothes in front of several people in the premises of their residential building.

The accused contended that the FIR was a false one and was lodged only to harass her. She further challenged the presence of two eyewitnesses at the spot of the incident and also the contention that she physically assaulted the informant with slippers. There was no injury mentioned in the medical examination certificate, she argued.

The Court noted that the eyewitnesses lived on the same floor as the parties to the case and held that their presence was well established and there seemed to be no reason for them to depose falsely.

Further, it said that mention of injury on the certificate was irrelevant as it could not have possibly recorded an injury caused by slippers. However, it held that the offence under Section 324 (voluntarily causing hurt with dangerous weapons or means) was not attracted as it contemplates use of a dangerous weapon. The offence under Section 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) was made out instead.

On the applicability of Section 354, the prosecution argued that the act of the accused clearly fulfilled the ingredients of the provision and the evidence in that regard was sufficient.

Counsel for the accused, on the other hand, argued that both the parties were women and there was no intention to outrage modestly. He, therefore, raised doubt over the applicability of Section 354 against the accused, a woman.

The Court said that the offence under Section 354 would lie against a man or a woman with the necessary intent or knowledge.

“For, a woman can assault or use criminal force to any other woman as equally and effectively as any man; and the intention or knowledge that the modesty of the woman assaulted or against whom criminal force has been used will be outraged, is not of a kind which a woman on account of inherent differences from man is incapable of having. The pronoun ‘he’ use in the expression ‘that he will thereby outraged her modesty’ must therefore be taken under section 8 of Indian Penal Code as importing a male or a female.” the Court stated.

Therefore, the Court found the accused guilty of offences under Sections 323 and 354 of IPC Taking into account that she had three children, including a 1.5 year old, she was sentenced to one year in prison along with a fine of ₹6,000.

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