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WHY FALSE MOLESTATION CASE UNDER SECTION 354 IPC BECOMING A BIG PROBLEM FOR INDIAN MEN?

INTRODUCTION

In today’s era, it is becoming a new trend to file a false FIR in sexual harassment cases under Section 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D, IPC etc. for ulterior purposes and personal grudges like getting illegal possession over property, forcing the party to withdraw the complaint, etc. Many women take advantage of these sections, as mentioned above, and judgments to falsely accuse men, forcing them to suffer throughout their entire lives. In this blog, I discussed how women abuse Section 354 IPC for their own or ulterior purposes, causing men to suffer for the rest of their lives, as well as the suggestion for fabricated cases, which will lead to the protection from such fabricated cases.

Section 354 Indian Penal Code, 1890.[1]

Section 354 IPC says that “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 thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

The essential elements of offence under Section 354 IPC:

  1. That the women must have been assaulted
  2. That the accused assaulted her unlawfully
  3. That the women were subjected to criminal force with the intension of insulting her modesty.

How the Section 354 IPC miscued by women?

By referring the case State of Punjab vs. Major Singh [2]– 

The Apex court stated that if the accused assaults or uses criminal force while intending to offend or knowing that he is likely to do so, the offence would be committed. This intension or awareness is only the key component of the offence, not the woman’s reactions or feelings. The concept of a woman’s modesty has been clarified by the Supreme Court on various occasions. According to the bench comprised of Arjit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia, the virtue of modesty is one that is inherent to a female because of her sex and character related to female human beings as a class. The court observed or stated that a woman’s modesty is outraged when the accused’s action is unexpected and could be seen as an insult to a woman’s decency and dignity.

By citing the case law – Mehendra chate Bhaskar v. State of Maharashtra[3] – In 2014, the Bombay High Court passed the decision against Mehendra and stated that “It is up to the women to comment on the nature of the touch, whether it was friendly, brotherly or fatherly, even if you keep your hand on the shoulder of a woman.” This kind of interpretation defeats the very intent of Section 354 IPC by eliminating the requirement that the intention or knowledge be ascertained from the point of view of the man who allegedly assaults or uses criminal force before determining whether the alleged act would have amounted to an outrage of modesty. This ruling has caused an increase in fabricated allegations of molestation against innocent men. Because of this judgement, a woman finds it easy to file a case under Sec 354 of the IPC, i.e., molestation.[4]

How to protect from Section 354 IPC – False allegation?

In the above cited case, the accused was held guilty of unfair under Section 354 IPC, since he didn’t want to outrage the women’s modesty and shall be punished with imprisonment of either the description for a term which shall not be less than one year or which may be extended to five years, and shall also be liable to a fine. Many women take advantage of these judgements and laws to falsely accuse men, forcing them to bear prolonged suffering. In State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal [5] In this case, the Supreme Court clearly pointed out a set of formal laws defining cases where such an inherent power could be used to quash a FIR. Hence, the complaint must either disclose an offence or be frivolous, vexatious, or oppressive in order for the criminal proceedings to be dismissed. In this case, the FIR’s content appeared ambitious and was void of any information on the allegedly committed offences. In addition to the foregoing, the court discovered that a review of the status report revealed no additional information on the offences.

 As per the status report- “The Petitioner and his wife were habitual complainants and have filed multiple complaints against the construction that would take place in the neighbourhood, and therefore, it is evident that the instant FIR was maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the Petitioner, and with a view to spite him and his wife due to a private and personal grudge.”[6]

After considering the facts and strict observation of this case, the Supreme Court considered the present matter eligible to exercise its inherent power under Section 482 CrPc to quash the FIR.

Suggestions

  • Section 354 IPC is a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
  • If the accused has enough material or evidence to show that the case is false, the accused may approach an application in the Court of Sessions for anticipatory bail.
  • If your application is rejected by the Session Court, then you have to move to the High Court. If you fail there too, then police will arrest the accused immediately.
  • If arrested before, if the police also find that the case is false, they may defer the arrest till they come to a final decision. They may seek the accused’s say, which may not arrest the accused and close the false case. This is the best opportunity to place accused evidence or material that would establish your innocence or the case against you is false.

Though the offence is non-bailable, bail is not difficult immediately after the arrest. The accused can then present all of the material or evidence that would give the police confidence that the accused is innocent and the case is false. The police may discharge the accused from the case under Section 169 of CrPc and close the case as false with or without prosecution of the complainant. Police have the power to release the accused under this section with or without sureties.

Conclusion

It has now become a trend to file fabricated cases under Section 354 IPC for personal grudges and other ulterior purposes. Several women took advantage of this section solely to harass men, which had a negative impact on society and even the next generation. The number of men committing suicide has increased with the increase in the number of false molestation cases. I strongly advise against such harassment of men, as they have suffered their entire lives, and their children and other family members will suffer as a result. It will also reduce the burden of the court from these bogus cases and also save the time of litigants as well as advocates and courts.

Author(s) Name: Samanta Rao (Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University)

References:

[1] Indian Penal Code, 1980 Section; 354, 354A, 354B, 354C, 354D

[2] State of Punjab vs. Major Singh 1967 AIR 63, 1966 SCR (2) 286

[3] Mehendra chate Bhaskar vs. State of Maharashtra 13 October, 2016

[4] DNA India <https://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-no-bombay-high-court-relief-for-chate-classes-director-in-molestation-case-1965594>

 [5] State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, 1992 Supp (1) SCC 335

 [6] Devika Sharma ‘False Invocation of Section 354a, 506 IPC merely Trivialises Offence of Sexual Harassment Casting Doubt on Veracity of Allegation By Victim Who has in reality faced sexual harassment’<https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2022/01/28/false-invocation-of-ss-354a-506-ipc-merely-trivalises-offence-of-sexual-harassment-casting-doubt-on-veracity-of-allegations/>