For a woman, her self-respect and dignity have consistently been her topmost
priority. Thus considering it under the Indian Penal Code (1860) Section 354 has
been enacted to safeguard the dignity of the woman from disparaging remarks and
other obnoxious assault which may either expressly or implicitly outrage her
According to Section 354
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to 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 shall not be
less than one year but which may extend to five years or with fine, or with
Thus it has been made a non-bailable offence under the Criminal Law Amendment
Provision of Punishment
2013 act 13 has substituted the punishment and fine provided underneath the
aforesaid and Section 6 provides:
Shall be punished with imprisonment of either
description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or with
The following essentials are sufficient to establish the offence:
From the side of an accused, section 354 requires basic knowledge on his part
that his act is likely to cause harm to a woman's modesty.
The act on his behalf must be an outcome of the criminal force or an assault
used by him.
The expression outrage the modesty is a sensitive term that has been
reliant upon various understanding and interpretations since what constitutes an
outrage to female modesty is nowhere defined thus what goes inside its ambit
depends upon the facts of a case.
Modesty is defined as something lewd or scrupulously chaste
as per the Oxford
In general, the term modesty means the sexual dignity of a woman which
is acquired by her since the time of her birth. The word ‘outrage’ implies a
Meaning of term modesty in the context of Section 354 of IPC
The Supreme Court defined modesty "as the essence of a woman’s modesty is her
sex. The culpable intention of the accused is the crux of the matter".
Examples- include demand for disrobing her, defamatory remarks,
forcefully dragging her to commit sexual assault and not limited to voyeurism
are acts that would come under the ambit of outraging the modesty of a female.
Case: The State of Punjab V. Major Singh
AIR 1967 SC 63
Court: Supreme Court of India
Appellant: The State of Punjab
Respondent: Major Singh
Bench: Justice A.S.Sarkar, Justice J.R. Mudholkar and Justice R.S Bachawat.
Disposition: in favour of the appellant
Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code,1860.
Facts in brief
It was about 9:30 pm when the baby was sleeping in the room. Major Singh
(accused) found the baby alone in the room he entered and turned the lights off.
Then he strips himself bare beneath the midriff and stoops over her. In this
obscene stance, he gives vent to his unnatural craving, and in the process
breaks the hymen and causes a tear 3/4" long inside her vagina. He escapes when
the mother enters the room and puts on the light.
The case was an appeal from the judgment by 2:1 ratio of the Punjab High Court
dated May 31, 1963. Wherein the two judges acquitted the accused. Thus the
appeal was preferred by the State Government.
- Is the respondent, who caused an injury to the vagina of a seven and a half
month infant, liable for an offence under section 354?
2 out of 3 judges in the present case observed that every woman, regardless of
her age, has modesty that is capable of being outraged." Every woman possesses
modesty from her very birth thus the essence of women modesty is her sex".
In a society where a crime committed against a woman is a reasonable sign of
immodesty. It has become crucial to secure decency that we need to consider
"modesty" as an essential attribute regardless of the fact that a female has
fostered a comprehension of her modesty or not.
The three judges unanimously agreed with the view that "reaction or the feeling
of a female cannot be a test to determine if her modesty is outraged or not
". Thus the criminal force or any such kind of assault by an accused with
intent or any sort of knowledge as mentioned is itself a sufficient ground and
such acts are liable for punishment.
The court held that modesty is applied without any age limit thus in the present
case a girl of seven and a half years has modesty that can be outraged thus from
her very birth, she possesses modesty and it's an attribute of her sex. The
respondent (Major Singh) was held guilty for outraging the female child's
modesty through his act and was liable guilty under section 354.
The point of view of the Judges
According to Justice A.K Sarkar:
If the reaction of the woman is made a test for the
determination of the outrage of modesty, then the difficulty may arise to establish the
intention or the knowledge of the accused to outrage the standard of modesty set up by
the concerned woman.
Justice J.R Mudholkar and Justice R.S Bachawat upheld the perspective of Justice
A.K Sarkar expressing that the ones who are lunatic or are under stupor, stupid,
unconscious (including sleeping) are only exempted if the reaction or the
feeling of the woman determines the outrage of her modesty.
They unanimously concurred that:
This makes it difficult to satisfy the goal of the concerned provisions of the
The appellant appeal was allowed and the respondent was sentenced to rigorous
imprisonment under Section 354 of Indian Penal Code,1860 for a time period of
two years with fine of Rs. 1,000/-, and in default, rigorous imprisonment for
- Andhra Pradesh Act 6, 1991 imposed the said imprisonment of either
description for not less than 5 years which may put forth to 7 years
- Madhya Pradesh Act 14, 2004 (Section 3) an accused will be punished not
less than 1 year extending to 10 years of imprisonment and also be liable
- Chattisgarh Act 25, 2015 (Section 3) inserted punishment not less than 2
years which may extend to 7 years including fine.
- Orissa Act 6, 1995 under (Section 3) the word 'bailable' substituted the word
The above-mentioned case is the harsh reality of our contemporary society that
even though a tender age girl child whose body is not fully developed yet, her
sexual powers are dormant becomes a survivor of such immoral crime. It is thus
the need of an hour to have a comprehensive understanding and interpretation of
the articulation "outrage modesty of women'' to tackle the sexual offences the
term "outrage the modesty
" must to be unequivocally defined and clarified under
the IPC which will be further sought by the courts.
The period of punishment anticipates changes wherein the base detainment
requires an expansion from two years. The present case will be considerably
simplified to conclude if a clear and an all-inclusive definition and meaning of
women is given, which says explicitly that it includes women of all ages,
physical and psychological conditions.