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Following & abusing woman will not come under outraging modesty of woman: Bombay HC

Bombay: In a rather shocking ruling, the Bombay High Court held that following and abusing a woman will not attract the offence of Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty). “As regards following and abusing P.W. 1, the said act cannot be said to be capable to shocking the sense of decency of a woman. The act may be annoying but definitely would not shock the sense of decency of a woman”, Justice Anil L Pansare observed. The case of the prosecution is that the accused/applicant had followed her couple of times and abused her. On the date of incident, while she was going to market, the applicant, who was following her on bicycle, pushed/shoved her. She got annoyed, however, she proceeded further. The applicant followed her and, therefore, she beat him.

After finding sufficient evidence, the courts below convicted the applicant for offense under Section 354. Aggrieved, he moved a revision application before the High Court. Relying on of Raju Pandurang Mahale Vs. State of Maharashtra and another, Additional Public Prosecutor stated that the essential ingredients of offence under Section 354 of the IPC. The first is that, the assault must be on a woman. The second is that, the accused must have used criminal force on her and the third is that, criminal force must have been used on the woman intending to outrage her modesty. In the case, the Supreme Court held that the ultimate test for ascertaining whether modesty has been outraged is to find out if the action of the offender could be perceived as capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman. The High Court noted the ultimate act to be considered is the act of pushing/shoving her while riding bicycle.

 According to the court, this is not an act capable of shocking the decency of a woman.“It is not the case of P.W. 1 that the applicant has touched her inappropriately or has given push at a specific part of her body which made her position embarrassing. The contact with the part of the body of P.W. 1 has been not stated by P.W. 1. In these circumstances, merely because the applicant has on bicycle given a push to P.W. 1, to my mind cannot be said to be an act which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of P.W. 1. The act may be offensive or annoying but cannot be said to be compromising the decency of a woman”.

 The Court also noted that except for the victim’s evidence, there is nothing else bring home the guilt of the applicant. “As stated earlier, her evidence is not sufficient to attract ingredients of Section 354 of the IPC. The prosecution therefore failed to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.” Stating this, the Court reversed the order of the court’s below, stating, “The Courts below have committed error in not applying the law to the admitted facts and thus rendered incorrect findings. The applicant has, therefore, made out a case.

Plea filed in Supreme Court to stay criminal laws

NEW DELHI: Within days of the passage three criminal laws, a lawyer has approached the Supreme Court, seeking a direction to the Centre to stay the operation and implementation of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023, Bharatiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita 2023 and Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam 2023. In a PIL, advocate Vishal Tiwari sought directions to immediately constitute an expert committee under the chairmanship of former judge of Supreme Court to examine, assess, identify the viability of three new criminal laws. The petitioner said new criminal law do not bring any new changes from the previous ones, except a few, but create confusion among citizen and provide more power to police and supress the fundamental rights.

 The petitioner claimed that there were irregularities in passage of the three laws as not much debate and discussion took place due to suspension of several MPs from Parliament. He cited a speech by former Chief Justice of India Justice N V Ramana expressing concern regarding enacting of laws without debate in Parliament.

Besides, questioning validity of the three laws on several grounds, the petitioner said the introduction of new criminal bills may bring about complex legal provisions, ambiguous language, or intricate procedural requirements. “Lawyers may face challenges in interpreting and navigating these complexities, potentially leading to delays and legal uncertainties,” his plea said. It also stated compliance with new criminal bills may lead to increased operational costs for law firms, including investments in legal technology, research tools, and specialised expertise required to effectively handle cases under the revised legal framework. “It is important to note that these problems are potential challenges that lawyers may encounter with the introduction of new criminal bills, and the specific impacts can vary based on the nature and scope of the legislation,” it said.”The main motive of the bills were to decolonise the indian laws, but in contrary the same laws are being repeated with no new explanations with additional powers granted to the police to rule people out of fear and depriving the fundamental rights,” the plea added.

President Droupadi Murmu has last month given assent to the three new criminal laws, which replaced British ear Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Evidence Act. The Ministry of Law and Justice on December 25, 2023 notified the three Acts in gazette. The government is yet to notify the date on which these codes will come into effect. The President’s assent was granted after Lok Sabha cleared the three bills on December 20 and Rajya Sabha on December 21, 2023.