Merely Moving hand over Minor's back without sexual intent does not amount to outraging her modesty: Bombay High Court

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Court quashed the conviction of a 28-year-old man under Section 451 (trespassing) and Section 354 (outraging modesty of woman) of IPC.

A single judge bench of Justice Bharati Dangre of Bombay High Court while dealing with a revision application filed by the accused held that if a man merely moves his hands over the back and head of a minor girl and passes a comment that "she has grown up", it will not amount to outrage her modesty.

It was also observed by the bench that in the present case, the prosecution failed to provide any evidence on the record to prove that the appellant intended to offend the girl's modesty.

The case began in 2012 when the offender was of 18-year-old and was arrested on allegations of outraging the modesty of a 12-year-old girl.

According to the prosecution, on March 15, 2012, the appellant went to the victim's house when she was alone. He had gone there to deliver some documents. The girl testified that after getting inside, the appellant asked for water and sat on a nearby chair. She offered him a glass of water and returned to her homework. The appellant then stood up from his chair and approached her, rolling his hands over her back and head while stating that she had grown up.

The minor girl protest such act of the appellant and started yelling for help. The neighbours then rushed inside the house and apprehended the appellant. A phone call was subsequently made to her mother, who returned home and allowed the appellant to go because she knew him.

The mother later went to the appellant's residence to warn him, but he allegedly threatened her, so she filed an FIR against him, resulting in his arrest and trial. The appellant was later convicted by a Magistrate court, which sentenced him to four and six months in prison, respectively, for trespassing and outraging the victim's modesty.

Subsequently, the appellant moved the High Court.

The high court observed that:

“In order to outrage the modesty of a woman, what is most important is having the intention to outrage the modesty and it is not the case of the prosecution that the accused did something more than what has been alleged, that is, moving his hand over the back and head of the victim. Neither the victim girl aged 12 – 13 years spoke of any bad intention on his part, but what she deposed is she felt bad or indicating some unpleasant act, which made her uncomfortable”.

Further, the court observed that the trial court made fundamental errors in understanding the testimony of the witnesses, which was filled with contradictions that cast doubt on the prosecution's case.

Court also opined that since the accused was 18 years old at the time of the offence and had no prior criminal records, the trial court should have granted him the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act and released him instead of imprisoning him for the offence under Sections 451 and 354 of IPC.

Because the prosecution has failed to prove that the act complained of necessarily fell within the purview of Sections 354 and 451 IPC, the petitioner must be given the benefit of the doubt, Court observed.

Accordingly, the bench allowed the revision application and set aside the concurrent findings and punishment.

Case Title: Mayur Babarao Yelore vs. State of Maharashtra

Statute - Section 354 and 451 of Indian Penal Code