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Abuse Of Section 354 Of Indian Penal Code 1860: Reform Suggestions and the Rising Challenge of False Accusation

Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty in circumstances in which the offender intends to do so or knows that it is likely that his actions will have the same result.

This paper tries to analyze the legal understanding of terms such as 'woman,' 'modest,' 'outraging of modesty' and the like. This paper analyzes interpretations made by courts in various cases and tries to suggest certain reforms to improve the archaic provisions by the changing times.

In 2014, the Delhi Commission for Women submitted a report stating that 53.2% of rape cases registered between April 2013-July and 2014 in Delhi were false.In India, the threat of false rape cases on one pretext or the other is increasing since the new amendment to the rape law in 2013.

This fact is evident from the study of court judgments and media reports by fast-track courts constituted across the country, including Delhi. According to the figures from the National Crime Records Bureau's (NCRB) Crime in India Report 2020, less than 8% of all cases under investigation for rape were found to be 'false'. A total of 38,947 rape cases were registered in India.

In 10,068 cases - almost a quarter - women claimed it was rape on a false promise of marriage. In many cases, false rape allegations are the result of parents hiding the "shame" of having sex with an unmarried daughter. A trial court defined the misery of the individual charged with false rape in the following terms, even after acquittal: "Can the weak old accused be returned to their damaged reputation and dignity? If he was not charged with this lawsuit, would he live the "Sanyas Ashram" of his life as happily as he must have?

The images of this false case, of awful days in prison, and court appearances at trials will undoubtedly hound him like a fantasy for the rest of his life. He did not have the greatest regard and admiration he had from his relatives and family after the present case." Accused of False Charges, Consequences and Sufferings "These 'victims' in falsified cases cannot be ignored," the FTC judge said In his words.

A fraudulent accusation of rape contributes to tragedies in the lives of the accused. His whole future has been broken, his family is lonely and crying and his life has been devastated. And even after the court acquittal, it is challenging to get out of shock, trauma, mockery and embarrassment of having been arraigned in a rape case."

Role of Media and Society The media, written as well as visual, began stressing cases of rape, and the Govt formed a committee for suggesting to propose a serious punishment for rapists and criminal legislation.

Since 2013, the Criminal Code reform has been extended so far that it was necessary to put the suspected accused behind bars simply based on mere statements by the rape victim. According to the trial judge in a case: "A lady's mere statement that she was raped was considered to have been taken as the gospel truth, the accused being detained and accused of rape," which may result in an extraordinary increase in the filing of cases of false rape that had to be acquitted after a lengthy trial.

These are the false cases that are counterproductive to the data on rape, which contributed to Delhi being branded a "Rape Capital." Out of how many instances the suspects were eventually prosecuted, no one is bothered to know.

Case Studies Shubham Pratyush v/s. State The Case 'Shubham Pratyush v/s State' is ongoing in the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi as follows:
  1. The applicant and victim in the present FIR belong to the same city Patna (BIHAR) and came into friendship in 2019 through social media. Due to feelings, they both fell in love with each other and could not stop each other from meeting face to face.
  2. On 18 February 2022, the informant, along with 2 other friends, celebrated the birthday of the accused. In 2022, the informant was admitted to Delhi University as a student in the Bachelor's Degree Course. The informant shifted to Delhi for her studies in February 2022 and, in August 2022, the informant came back to her native place in Patna to meet her accused friend. Stayed there and enjoyed loving moments with him that were mutual.
  3. In November 2022, applicants came to Delhi for the first time at the request of an informant on the occasion of the informant's birthday. The informant pressurized the accused to stay overnight with her. The arrangement was made for a stay at Hotel City Castle, Karol Bagh Delhi, and they enjoyed each other.
  4. There were several meetings and stays between them in Delhi and Patna, both places. In January 2023, the applicant met the informant with her school friend Ananya. Everyone knew about the love story of the informant and the applicant.
  5. The accused came to Delhi along with his father on 23 May 2023 for coaching.
  6. The informant is staying in Delhi PG/Hostel and arranged for her boyfriend/Accused in her PG, and thereafter the next day she again asked her applicant friends to plan her stay in OYO hotel with the mutual consent of each other at City Castle, Karol Bagh, New Delhi, and a quarrel happened between them, and left the hotel without the knowledge of the accused - In this case, anticipatory bail is given by the Delhi high court.

Given the foregoing facts and circumstances of the case, we think that the crime committed by the accused was at an initial stage of preparation. The offence committed does not come within the purview of an offence punishable under Sections 376/511 IPC. The offence committed squarely covers the ingredients of Sections 366 and 354 IPC.

The appellant was charged under Sections 376/511 IPC, but on invoking the provisions of Section 222 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the accused charged with a major offence can always be convicted for the minor offence, if necessary ingredients of a minor offence are present. Based on evidence and documents on record, in our considered view, the appellant is also guilty under Section 354 IPC because all the ingredients of Section 354 IPC are present in the instant case.

Legal Provisions
Section 354 IPC reads as under: 354. Assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty:
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force on 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 a fine, or with both."

The Court in State of Karnataka v. Khaleel stated as follows
 "The parents reached the sugarcane field when the accused was in the process of attempting molestation and immediately he ran away from the place. There was no evidence in support of the allegation of rape and the accused was acquitted of charge u/s 376 but he was held liable for conviction under section 354/511 IPC."

The Court in Nuna v. The Emperor stated as follows:
The accused took off a girl's clothes, threw her on the ground and then sat down beside her. He said nothing to her nor did he do anything more. It is held that the accused committed an offence under Section 354 IPC and was not guilty of an attempt to commit rape.

The Court in Shokut v. State of Rajasthan stated as follows:
"The accused took the prosecutrix nurse to attend to a patient but on the way he tried to molest her and beat her also. The accused was held guilty u/s 354/366 IPC as he by deceitful means had taken the prosecutrix from her house and had then outraged her modesty."

We have carefully analysed the provisions about outraging the modesty of a woman/girl under Sections 376, 366 and 354 of the Indian Penal Code. This exercise was undertaken to spell out the ambit and scope of offences under these provisions. Based on the evidence and documents on record, we are of the considered opinion that the conviction of the appellant under Section 376/511 IPC is wholly erroneous and unsustainable and consequently, the judgments of the High Court and the trial court are set aside. On the evaluation of the entire evidence and documents on record, in our considered view, the appellant is guilty of the offences under Sections 366 and 354 IPC.

In the facts and circumstances of this case, the end of justice would be served by convicting the appellant under Sections 366/354 IPC. The appellant is sentenced to undergo imprisonment for five years under Section 366 IPC. The appellant is also convicted under Section 354 IPC and sentenced to two years of rigorous imprisonment. We direct both sentences to run concurrently.

Madan Gopal Kakkad vs Naval Dubey And Anr The State has not preferred any appeal before this Court. However, the father of the victim girl, namely PW-5, feeling aggrieved by the judgment of the High Court, has filed this criminal appeal mainly on two grounds, namely:
  1. The High Court has erred in finding the respondent guilty of a minor offence under Section 354 IPC when all the necessary ingredients to constitute an offence punishable under Section 376 IPC have been satisfactorily established;
  2. that the sentence of fine alone imposed by the High Court under Section 354 IPC for this serious offence is grossly inadequate and is not commensurate with the gravity of the offence committed by the respondent.
When the matter came up for admission before this Court on 25.8.88, the following order was made:
The above findings and observations made by the High Court clearly show that the High Court was fully satisfied with the evidence of the victim Tulna (PW 13) and found sufficient corroboration on all material particulars from the evidence of PWs 5, 6, 9, 10 and 12 and that the extra- judicial confession given by the respondent was true and it was not obtained by any inducement, coercion or threat but on the other hand it was voluntarily made and that there could be penetration without rupture.

Having accepted the entire evidence adduced by the prosecution in toto, the High Court nonetheless entertained a doubt about the accusation of rape holding there was no sign of injuries and held that the offence is not one punishable under Section 376 IPC or Section 376 read with 511 IPC but only one under Section 354 IPC on the ground that the respondent has outraged the modesty of Tulna by "feeling pleasure in getting him and the victim made necked, asking unwary minor girls to fiddle with his organ" taking advantage of the absence of the other adult family members in his house.

Coming to the question of sentence, the High Court gave the following reason: Ms Pinky Anand, the learned counsel appearing for the appellant having thoroughly marshalled the facts, presented her persuasive submissions so eloquently in an effective and at the same time in very supplicatory manner by taking us through the entire evidence very meticulously and pleaded that the spine-chilling facts and the circumstances surrounding the case do demand the interference of this Court with the judgment of the High Court so that the wrong done due to the erroneous conclusion of the High Court may be remedied.

Though Ms Pinky Anand initially put forth her arguments on two alternative grounds, namely, that the conviction should be altered into one under Section 376 IPC or the sentence of fine imposed for the conviction under Section 354 IPC, which is grossly inadequate, should be enhanced. But she left out the alternative argument and stressed the first part of her submission that the offence made out was nothing short of rape punishable under Section 376 IPC.

At one point in time, she feebly stated that at least the offence would fall under Section 376 read with 511 IPC on the opinion of PW 4, if not under Section 376 IPC, which submission she completely gave up subsequently and proceeded vehemently contending that the offence of rape within the definition of Section 375 is made out.

From the above discussion, we unreservedly hold that the prosecution has satisfactorily established its case that the respondent has committed rape on PW 13 by proving all the necessary ingredients required to make out an offence of rape punishable under Section 376 IPC. In the result, we set aside the judgment of the High Court convicting the respondent under Section 354 IPC and sentencing him to pay a fine of Rs. 3,000 instead convict the respondent under Section 376 IPC.

Premiya @ Prem Prakash vs State Of Rajasthan:
To constitute the offence under Section 354 IPC mere knowledge that the modesty of a woman is likely to be outraged is sufficient without any deliberate intention of having such outrage alone for its object. There is no abstract conception of modesty that can apply to all cases. (See State of Punjab v. Major Singh (AIR 1967 SC 63). A careful approach has to be adopted by the court while dealing with a case alleging outrage of modesty.

The essential ingredients of the offence under Section 354 IPC are as:
  1. That the person assaulted must be a woman;
  2. That the accused must have used criminal force on her; and
  3. That the criminal force must have been used on the woman intending thereby to outrage her modesty.

Intention is not the sole criterion of the offence punishable under Section 354 IPC, and it can be committed by a person assaulting or using criminal force to any woman, if he knows that by such act the modesty of the woman is likely to be affected. Knowledge and intention are essentially things of the mind and cannot be demonstrated like physical objects.

The existence of intention or knowledge has to be culled out from various circumstances in which and upon whom the alleged offence is alleged to have been committed. A victim of molestation and indignation is in the same position as an injured witness and her testimony should receive the same weight. In the instant case after careful consideration of the evidence, the trial court and the High Court have found the accused guilty.

But the offence is Section 354 IPC. In the instant case, we alter the conviction of the accused from Section 376 IPC to Section 354 IPC. The accused has undergone nearly two years of sentence. The occurrence is from 1987. The custodial sentence shall be the period already undergone. appellant shall be released forthwith unless required in custody in connection with any other case. The appeal is allowed.

Legal Provisions
In Shubham Pratyush vs State the legal provisions related are sections 354, 354 A, 354 D of IPC 1860 354. Assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty:
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force on any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will outrage her modesty, 1[shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine].2 [354A.

Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment:
  1. A man committing any of the following acts:
    1. Physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or
    2. a demand or request for sexual favours; or
    3. Showing pornography against the will of a woman; or
    4. Making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment.
  2. Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (i) clause (ii) or clause (iii) of Sub-section (1) shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with a fine, or with both.
  3. Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with a fine, or with both 354D.
  • Any man who:
    1. 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; or
    2. Monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email, or any other form of electronic communication, commits the offence of stalking: Provided that such conduct shall not amount to stalking if the man who pursued it proves that:
      1. it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and the man accused of stalking had been entrusted with the responsibility of prevention and detection of crime by the State, or
      2. it was pursued under any law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any law, or
      3. in the particular circumstances, such conduct was reasonable and justified.
  • Whoever commits the offence of stalking shall be punished:
    • On the first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to a fine; and
    • On a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to a fine.

The conclusion of this study is how section 354 is being exploited by women and misused by them just to take some revenge on another person. By the false accusations, not only the person suffers, but also their families suffer and the law assures to provide justice to these people against whom false allegations are being imposed for the sake of revenge and other purposes.

In the ongoing case of Shubham Pratyush vs. State, The accused and his family have already suffered a lot due to false allegations by the applicant and now the accused will go to the high for quashing the FIR due to false allegations and as No, MLC of the prosecutrix and she refused to undergo MLC and she has taken this step out of personal or ulterior motive. So, the FIR against the accused should be quashed and the case dismissed.

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