Read Judgment: Shrikrushna vs. State of Maharashtra

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, August 11, 2021: The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has ruled that the very act of throwing a chit on a woman which professes love for her and contains poetic verses, albeit extremely purely written, is sufficient to outrage her modesty.

The High Court, however, modified the sentence of imprisonment imposed for offences punishable u/s 354 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to the period already undergone by the applicant, saying the applicant deserved a chance to reform and further incarceration was not likely to be of any avail 

A Single Bench of Justice Rohit B. Deo enhanced the amount of fine to Rs. 50,000/- for offence punishable u/s 354 IPC and Rs. 40,000/- for offence punishable u/s 509 IPC. In addition to the amount of Rs. 35,000/- which is to be paid to the victim/informant by virtue of the trial Magistrate’s order, Justice Deo also ordered to impose additional fine of Rs. 50,000/- to be paid to the informant/victim.

“The modesty of a woman is her most precious jewel and there cannot be a straitjacket formula to ascertain whether modesty is outraged,” stated the Bench. 

It also said, “the very act of throwing a chit on her person which professes love for her and which contains poetic verses, albeit extremely, purely written is sufficient to outrage the modesty of a woman”.

These observations came pursuant to a complaint lodged by 45-year-old Mrs. ‘S’ in Akola Police Station alleging obscene gestures and throwing of chit professing love, by the owner of a neighboring grocery shop, which resulted in culmination of the investigation leading to submission of a final report, wherein the applicant abjured guilt.

In defence, it was pleaded that a false complaint was lodged since Mrs. ‘S’ purchased grocery on credit and she was not inclined to pay the applicant-accused the amount due.

On the basis of contents of the chit and the other materials on record, the Magistrate and the Appellate Court held the accused guilty of offences punishable u/s 354, 506 and 509 of the IPC.

Justice Deo, however, refused to undertake a microscopic examination of the evidence on record and found that there was no material, except a bald general statement that some threat was issued, to bring home the charge u/s 506 of the IPC. 

The Bench noted that the sine qua non ingredient of Section 506 is criminal intimidation as defined in Section 503 of the IPC. 

A bare perusal of Section 503 would reveal that the threat must be with intent to cause injury either to person, reputation or property and the intent must be to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, added the Bench. 

The High Court therefore held that the conviction recorded u/s 506 of the IPC was unsustainable, by observing that as per the evidence, the applicant threatened Mrs. “S” that the contents of the chit should not be disclosed.  The nature of the threat, the words used, whether the words used were such as would cause alarm and whether the complainant/informant as a fact was alarmed, are aspects within the realm of speculation. 

Insofar as charge u/s 354 and 509 of the IPC was concerned, taking into cumulative effect of the evidence on record, particularly, the version of Mrs. “S”, it was suggestive that the view concurrently taken was a plausible view, added the Court. 

However, the High Court in its agreement with the conviction recorded u/s 354 and 509 of IPC, observed that the evidence of Mrs. “S” that the applicant used to flirt, make gestures like pouting of lips, on occasions used to hit her with small pebbles, is confidence inspiring. 

Lastly, the High Court expressed that while the applicant did outrage the modesty of Mrs. “S” by throwing on her person a chit professing his love and by certain acts and gestures like pouting of lips and throwing small pebbles, the applicant deserved a chance to reform and further incarceration was not likely to be of any avail.

It was also observed that the applicant had already undergone 45 days of incarceration and considering the date of the incident or commission of offence, as the provisions of law stood then, there was no minimum sentence provided for offence punishable under Section 354 of the IPC. It is only by the 2013 amendment that minimum sentence is provided.

Hence, the Division Bench modified the sentence of imprisonment imposed for offences punishable u/s 354 and 509 of the IPC to the period already undergone.

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