Friday, 28 February 2014

‘Can a woman outrage modesty of another?’ 
Court Seeks To Know Legal Provision

Rosy Sequeira TNN 

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Thursday questioned if a woman can be accused of outraging the modesty of another woman and sought the legal provisions for it. 
    A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice V L Achliya on Thursday heard a petition by a family of six from a Borivli housing society, including the 78-year-old matriarch Sarlaben Shah, seeking to quash an FIR filed against them by neighbour Preeta Jain (55). 
    It started with a dispute over grilles that the Shahs fitted outside their ground-floor flat, which was opposed by their neighbours, including the Jain family. During an argument, Sarlaben’s granddaughter was allegedly assaulted and manhandled. On October 23, 2009, she lodged a complaint of molestation against Jain’s son and husband and an FIR was registered. 
    A few months later, on February 27, 2010, the Jains also got an FIR registered against the Shahs and the charges included molestation. 
    In the court, Shah’s advo
cate Pradeep Havnur questioned how two FIRs could be registered for the same incident. “It is absurd that a 78-year-old woman can be accused of molesting another woman,” he exclaimed. At that, the judges questioned if a woman could indeed molest another woman and what was the legal position. “This is a serious question. Can a woman molest another woman? Even scientifically? Because there are the allegations,” said Justice Patil. “Go through the law. If a woman does commit such an act, can she be tried under the available law for molesting a woman?” 
    On going through section 354 of the IPC, the judges noted 
that while the section began with the word “whoever”, it later went on to refer to the accused as a “he” and the victim a “she”. “Can a woman be accused of outraging the modesty of another woman under section 354? Get the legal position,” said Justice Patil to Havnur. The judges pointed out that even the amended section 354 A referred to an act committed by a man on a woman. While parting with the matter, the judges said housing societies must intervene and sort out such problems instead of parties filing cross-complaints and coming to court.     (Names of disputing parties changed) 

In 2009, the Shah family in Borivli fitted grilles outside their groundfloor flat, which was apparently opposed by some of their neighbours, including Preeta Jain’s family. During an argument, the Shah family matriarch’s granddaughter was allegedly 
assaulted and manhandled. They lodged a complaint of molestation against Jain’s son and husband on Oct 23, 2009. On Feb 27, 2010, the Jains lodged a counter-complaint, against the Shahs, one of the charges being molestation 

Section 354 of Indian Penal Code 
Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty. Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Source :::: The Times  of India, p.5,

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