In the matter of Shrikrushna v. State of Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court on 4th August 2021, while hearing a criminal revision application against a judgment by the Judicial Magistrate First Class passed in 2018, observed that “The modesty of a woman is her most precious jewel and there cannot be a straitjacket formula to ascertain whether modesty is outraged.”
The Applicant (Shrikrushna) is convicted for offences punishable under Sections 354, 509 & 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for two years and to payment of fine of Rs. 10,000/-, rigorous imprisonment for two years and to payment of fine of Rs. 30,000/- and rigorous imprisonment for one year, respectively by the lower court.
Mrs. S (name kept confidential) had lodged a FIR against the applicant alleging that when the applicant approached her while she was washing utensils, he tried to handover a chit. When she rejected to accept it, he threw the chit at her muttered “I love you”. Allegedly, next morning, he made obscene gestures and warned her not to disclose the contents of the chit to anyone. Even prior to that, it is contended that he used to flirt with her and throw small pebbles on her person.
The High Court judge said that there was no reason to not believe the woman’s version of what happened. The court also cited the complainant’s testimony, saying that the man used to flirt with her, make gestures like pouting and sometimes hit her with pebbles.
After the incident, the woman registered a complaint against the man in a sessions court. The accused man was charged under sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman), and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code. In 2011, the man was also fined Rs 40,000, out of which Rs 35,000 was compensation for the woman.
However, Tiwari later challenged the lower court’s judgement with a criminal revision plea, arguing that the woman had falsified her complaint as she bought groceries on credit from the man’s store and was not willing to pay the amount.
The High Court held that:
- Except a bald general statement that some threat was issued, there is no material, to bring home the charge under Section 506 of the IPC. The conviction under this section is unsustainable.
- The very act of throwing a chit at Mrs. S and professing love for her which contains poetic verses constitutes outraging the modesty of a woman.
- The modesty of a woman is her most precious jewel and there cannot be a straitjacket formula to ascertain whether modesty is outraged.
- No interference required with the conviction under Sections 354 and 509 of the IPC.
- The incident occurred in 2011 and the applicant deserves a chance to reform.
- As the minimum sentence under Section 354 was provided only by the 2013 amendment, the Court modified the sentence of imprisonment imposed for offences punishable under Sections 354 & 509 of the IPC to the period already undergone.
- The court increased the amount of fine to Rs 90,000, of which the court asked the accused to pay Rs 85,000 to the woman as compensation. The man was given 15 days to deposit the money in the trial court.
- The applicant shall deposit the fine in the trial Court within the next 15 days.
- The Court listed this disposed of revision under the caption “for reporting compliance” after three weeks.