354. Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.—
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will there by outrage her modesty, [shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine]
To seek conviction – The following are needed to be proved :-
1. Assault /use of criminal force
2. With intent to outrage modesty.
3. or, knowledge that it would outrage her modesty.
Here, Intention can be substituted by knowledge. Which is culled out from the circumstances in which the offence is committed.
What constitutes an outrage to the modesty of a woman?
1. It is not specifically specified anywhere in the code.
2. But it Can be described as :-
a) Quality of being modest.
b) in relation to woman’s -
a. womanly propriety of behaviour.
b. scrupulous chastity of thought, speech and conduct
c. reserve or sense of shame proceeding from instinctive aversion to impure or coarse suggestion.
c) It is a virtue attached to a woman owing to her sex.
- Tarkeshwar Sahu Vs. State of Bihar ( Now Jharkhand ) 2006 8 SCC 560
1. No person, in absence of any clear and unimpeachable evidence as his intention to outrage the modesty of a woman or as to his knowledge that his conduct was likely to outrage the modesty, can be convicted under sec – 354.
Ram das V. State of west Bengal
Facts – Accused boarded train in night. There were 2 female & 1 male in compartment. Accused took off his trousers ( was wearing underclothes). This resulted in exchange of heated words & quarrel b/w the 2 groups and during this the accused gave a push to one woman.
Alleged – Before removing pants he was looking at them with lustful eyes.
Supreme court – Acquitted as :-
(a) It is a natural preparatory act to becoming comfortable.
(b) There was absence of any evidence to prove intention/knowledge.
(c) ‘staring with lustful eyes’ – such impression is psychological & not factual.
2. Act must be deliberate with culpable intention
E.g. - Removing dress coupled with a request of sexual desire.[Rameshwar v Haryana]
S.P Malik V. State of Orrisa
The Accused put a hand on belly of a pregnant women.
The High Court said that the act didn’t amount to outraging modesty as it can’t be inferred from the act that accused had intention / knowledge that he by such act could outrage her modesty.
3. Justice Bachawat :-
a) Reaction of the women is relevant in determining but absence is not always decisive. And it is not the test.
b) The essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex [Mental state, Age, etc doesn’t matter]
c) The culpable intention of the accused is the crux of the matter.
d) Possess modesty from her very birth
Case - State of Punjab V. Major Singh
Facts – The Accused (Major Singh) caused injury to vagina of a 7 ½ month old infant by fingering when she was sleeping which ruptured her hymen causing a ¾ th inch tear inside her vagina.
Lower Court –Acquitted the Accused giving the reason that the child has not developed sufficient sexual instinct and thereby her modesty can’t be outraged.
Supreme Court – Reversed the decision of the lower court and Convicted the Accused for 2 Years of Rigorous Imprisonment.
4. Mere triviality of a harm caused doesn’t take such assault outside ambit of 354.
Case - Rupan Deol Bajaj V. KPS Gill
Facts – Petitioner was an IAS officer (Punjab cadre – Special Secretary, Finance). She Went to a party in her colleague’s house where she met the Accused KPS Gill (DGP) who asked her to sit next to him. When she went to sit, he pulled the chair close to his chair. She was surprised and pulled the chair back to original place but the accused pulled the chair again close to him. After this she left from there and about 10 minutes later the accused came and stood close to her, crooked his finger and asked her to come with him. she objected & asked him to leave the accused kept repeating and asked her to come in a commanding voice and blocked her way. She was frightened due to this and he was in a position that she couldn’t get up from her chair without touching him. She quickly drew her chair back and tried to go away from there, at this point KPS Gill slapped her on her posterior in the presence of others. And after she Filed a FIR.
HC – Quashed the FIR when KPS Gill filed application to quash it. The court applied sec – 95. i.e. Act causing slight harm.—Nothing is an offence by reason that it causes, or that it is intended to cause, or that it is known to be likely to cause, any harm, if that harm is so slight that no person of ordinary sense and temper would complain of such harm.
SC – Said that the Quashing was illegal and in such offences under no circumstances the harm could be termed trivial.
a) affront on normal sense of feminine decency.
b) capable of shocking the decency of a woman.
Case - Raju Pandurang Mahale V. State oh Maharashtra
Facts – Accused bought victim to the house of co-accused on a false pretext after which he confined her and then forced her to drink liquor, disrobed her and clicked nude photographs.
SC – Convicted.
6. It is different from rape
It can range from catching hold of a woman’s hand to sexual assault of heinous nature but It falls short of penile penetration or an attempt to do so.
- Josgiri hospital V. Govt. of Kerala
7. Consent is a defence
- Madhya Pradesh V. Sheo Dayal.