Mere catching or holding a woman from her arm would not be mischief within the meaning of Section 354 of IPC

HIMACHAL PRADESH HIGH COURT

Before :- Kuldip Chand Sood, J.
Cr.M.P. (M) No. 1270 of 2003. D/d. 12.11.2003

State of H.P. - Appellant
Versus
Kewal Ram - Respondent

For the Petitioner :- Mr. Ashok Chaudhary, Addl. A.G.
Madhya Pradesh High Court, Indore Judgments
JUDGMENT

Kuldip Chand Sood, J. - This petition for leave to appeal is directed against the judgment of acquittal in appeal, recorded by the learned Sessions Judge, Sirmaur at Nahan, dated 18.8.2003.
2. It appears, accused-respondent Kewal Ram was tried for an offence punishable under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, Sirmaur District at Nahan and was convicted for the offence.
The accused was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000/- and in case of default in the payment of fine, the accused-respondent was to suffer simple, imprisonment for two months.
3. The case of the prosecution was :
4. On 18.6.2002, Asha Devi, prosecutrix had gone to jungle for grazing cattle. Accused-respondent Kewal Ram came there, who without any reason, caught hold the complainant from her right arm and dragged her. In the process, shirt worn by the complainant was torn. The complainant raised an alarm. Her maternal uncle Narinder Singh came to the spot. In the meanwhile, accused-respondent managed to escape.
5. Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code is a punitive provision, providing punishment for assault or use of criminal force to a woman with an intention to outrage her modesty. This provision has been enacted to ensure decency and normals. Indecent assault upon a woman cause untold shame and suffering to the victim and indignation of the public.
6. The prosecution, to secure conviction under this provision, is obliged to prove :
    (a) There was assault or use of criminal force on a woman;
    (b) Such an assault or criminal force was used;
    (i) with an intention to outrage her modesty; or
    (ii) knowledge that modesty was likely to be outraged;
7. The expression "Modesty" has not been defined in the Penal Code. The Shorter Oxford Dictionary of English defines the word "modest" in relation to a woman as :-
    "not forward or lewd; shame-fast."
8. The Apex Court in Rupan Deol Bajaj v. Gill K.P.S., 1995(3) RCR(Crl.) 700 (SC) : 1995(6) SCC 194 observed :-
    "modesty is the quality of being modest and in relation to a woman mean womanly property of behaviour; scrupulous chastity of thought, speech and conduct the word 'modest' in relation to woman is defined as decorous in manner and conduct; not forward or lewd; shame-fast."
9. The Apex Court, in State of Punjab v. Major Singh, AIR 1967 SC 63, explained that the act done to or in the presence of a woman suggestive of sex according to common notions of mankind would fall within the ambit of this Section. The essence of a woman's modesty, pointed out the Supreme Court, is her sex. The culpable intention of the accused is the pointer of outraging modesty of a woman.
10. Thus, necessary ingredient of Section 354 is use of criminal force or, assault against a woman to outrage her modesty. In other words, use of criminal force or assault must be suggestive of sex.
11. In the present case, the complainant in her evidence states categorically that she was caught hold by her arm by the accused. It is her further evidence that she was dragged for some distance, in which process her shirt was torn. On raising alarm, her maternal uncle Narinder Singh came to the spot but the accused managed to escape. Assuming the allegation to be correct, mere catching or holding a woman from her arm would not be a mischief within the meaning of Section 354 of the Penal Code unless the act is suggestive of sex.
12. This apart admittedly, there is enmity between the two families of the complainant and accused, therefore, false implication of the accused cannot be ruled out, more so when the shirt which was torn in the process of dragging the complainant was not produced in the court. The entire incident, as alleged by the complainant, becomes suspect.
13. The acquittal, recorded by the learned Sessions Judge cannot be said to be perverse or unjustified or de hors the evidence.
14. There is no merit in this petition.
15. Dismissed.
16. Leave refused.
Petition dismissed.
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