Mumbai: In what can spell trouble for 'abusive' husbands, the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court has held that abusing a wife would amount to outraging her modesty. The court has said that such a husband can be prosecuted as per law.

The significant ruling was pronounced by a division bench of Justices Tanaji Nalawade and Mukund Sewlikar while disposing of a plea seeking to quash an FIR registered against the husband, who had abused his wife.

The husband was booked for abusing his wife and calling her a prostitute. The police, however, did not invoke the provisions that penalise outraging modesty of a woman. In fact, the FIR only mentioned charges of criminal intimidation and obscenity at public place along with defamation, as he had sent abusive messages to his wife on her WhatsApp.

According to the wife, the husband often called her a prostitute and accused her of engaging in the activity for earning money.

Having noted the contentions, Justice Nalawade said, “It appears that the husband has called his wife a prostitute. To call a woman -- even if she is one’s own wife -- a prostitute and to tell her that she earns money by indulging in prostitution amounts to insulting the modesty of a woman.”

“Therefore, there is prima facie evidence to indicate that the offence falls under section 509, which penalises a man for outraging modesty of women. In view of this, the prosecution is at liberty to carry out investigation to ascertain whether the offence under section 509 is made out,” Justice Nalawade held.

The bench then referred to the charges pertaining to obscenity at public places, which was invoked for sending WhatsApp messages. “The alleged obscene messages are sent on WhatsApp and these messages sent on personal accounts are strictly personal. Nobody has access to those messages except the sender and the receiver,” the bench noted while referring to the terms of WhatsApp.

The bench accordingly said WhatsApp cannot be a public place if messages are exchanged on personal accounts of two persons.

“However, if messages are posted on WhatsApp Group, in that case the same can be called a public place because all the members of the group will have access to those messages,” the bench said, while quashing the FIR against the husband to the extent of obscenity at public place charge.

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