Casual touch on hands is no outraging of modesty

Mumbai: In a significant ruling, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has held that if a man casually touches a woman’s hands then he cannot be booked for outraging her modesty.

The High Court said there must be an intention on part of the man to outrage the modesty of the woman.

A bench of Justices Tanaji Nalawade and Kishor Sonawane granted relief to a school principal, who was booked for outraging the modesty of a junior teacher.

According to the complaint filed by the junior teacher, the principal had not cleared her bills. She had asked him to clear the same; the principal entered her classroom and touched her hands saying he would clear the same.

She further alleged that the principal again touched her hands and threatened that no one can harm him, as he has a good rapport with the trustees.

Having considered the contentions, the bench said, “The alleged crime does not meet the criteria of the provision, which penalises outraging the modesty of a woman, as there are no circumstances, prima facie, sufficient to conceive that the act of touching the hands of the complainant had anything to do with the sex of the victim which is the essence of woman’s modesty.”

“The bare act of touching the hands of fellow woman-teacher by headmaster while uttering words that her bills would be cleared and she should not make a complaint to the trustees of the school, would not itself constitute the offence of outraging the modesty of the complainant.

It cannot be said that the alleged act of molestation by the principal was an affront to the normal sense of feminine decency and to the dignity of the complainant lady,” the judges held.

While referring to Section 354, which penalises such an act, the judges said the law was enacted to safeguard the public morality and decent behaviour.

“Therefore, if any person uses criminal force upon any woman with intention or knowledge that the woman’s modesty will be outraged, he is to be penalized.

In order to constitute this offence, mere knowledge that the modesty of a woman is likely to be outraged is sufficient without any deliberate intention of such outrage alone for its object,” the court ruled.

“Had there been any culpable intention of the principal to outrage modesty of the complainant, he would have called her in his chamber. But he went in the class room, where the alleged incident took place. It cannot be termed as a deliberate act on his part,” the court ruled.

The court further said that the act of an offender should be of such a nature that it was not only an affront to the normal sense of feminine decency, but also an affront to the dignity of the lady.

In its order granting relief to the school principal, the judges noted the fact that several complaints were lodged against the complainant in regard to insubordination, her negligent conduct and demeanour while discharging duties at the school.

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