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The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court strictly interpreted Section 354-D(1) and stated that the act mentioned therein must be done repeatedly, despite a clear indication of disinterest by a woman.
The Bombay High Court, Nagpur bench of Justice G.A Sanap, while setting aside the conviction of the appellant for stalking under Section 354D of the IPC, stated that for an offence to be punishable under Section 354D of the IPC, the act should be done repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by the women. And as per the evidences and reports, the appellant had not repeatedly followed or contacted, or attempted to follow for personal interaction.
The appellant had approached the High Court after he was convicted by the lower court for sexual harassment and stalking under IPC 1860, and under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (‘POCSO Act’) of a 14-year-old girl. The appeal is against the judgment and order passed by the learned Special Judge, Warora in Special (POCSO) Case, where the Court convicted the appellant for the offences punishable under Sections 341, 354-A, 354-D of the Indian Penal Code and under Sections 11(i) and 12 of the POCSO Act.
The said incident was committed by the appellant when the victim was returning from school with her friends on her cycle. The appellant stopped the victim and said “mi tuzyawar khup prem karto, chal mala detes ka”. (I love you very much and made demand for sex). The victim stated that the accused then held her hand, on which, the victim screamed loudly. Hearing her scream, a person named Raju approached the victim and the appellant and started questioning the appellant as to why he was teasing the victim. The appellant then abused Raju and ran away. There were many such incidents that the victim alleged, where the appellant used to whistle, and sing songs to obstruct them.
The Court while objecting to the offence of stalking that was alleged to be made out stated, "The victim (PW1) has not categorically deposed about repeatedly stalking her and her friends. In her evidence, she has stated that prior to the incident, the appellant used to whistle and sing song. This is the only statement to attribute allegation of stalking to the appellant". And was further of the opinion that the, "This basic ingredient has not been established. In my opinion, therefore, the conviction and sentence of the appellant on this count cannot be sustained. It is required to be set aside".
The High Court in its order referred to section 354D which states:
“(1) Any man who--
(i) follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman;”
Further the Bench added that for an offence to be punishable under section 354D, the act should be done repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by the women. And in the present case, the statement of the victim and her friend falls short of the basic ingredient under section 354D(i).
Therefore, the Hon’ble High Court partly allowed the appeal, while setting aside the conviction for stalking under Section 354D(i) of IPC 1860, and maintained the sentence and the conviction for the rest of the offences.
CASE TITLE: Mahadev Narayan Bhusari vs. State of Maharashtra
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