Section IPC 354


Posted On : March 2, 2022
Section IPC 354
We live in a society tied with certain norms. A woman in our society is said to acquire modesty, a sense of dignity since her birth. Any harm to such modesty is an offence under Section 354 IPC. Detailed explanation of the legal provision and related concerns have been dealt with below.
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Women are considered as one of the vulnerable groups in our society. More so because of the offences against them that push women’s safety to the corner. Men and women account for a society, and if one of them is not safe, the whole society suffers. In India, offences against women are sensitive aspects that have to be handled carefully.

 

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) provides for various offences and their corresponding punishments. The Chapter 16 of IPC constitutes of offences against the human body. Section 354 IPC criminalises the “assault or criminal force against a woman to outrage her modesty[1]”. Detailed understanding of the provision including facets like Section 354 IPC compoundable or not, 354 IPC punishment, etc. has been furnished here under.


Section 354 IPC Ingredients

Knowing the ingredients of IPC sections help get the crux of particular criminal provisions. Since the legislature seldom explains the meaning behind words used, the obligation to explain such unexplained terms falls upon the judiciary. Hence, it is suggested to understand the section 354 IPC ingredients with the help of case laws.

The main ingredients of Sec 354 IPC as explained in case of S.P.S. Rathore[2] are as follows:

  • The person subjected to assault should be a woman;
  • The accused must have used criminal force against such woman; and
  • Accused must have used criminal force intending to outrage the modesty of that woman.
  • In another case[3], hon’ble Supreme Court reiterated the status of intention under 354 IPC through the words “The existence of intention or knowledge has to be culled out from various circumstances in which and upon whom the offence is alleged to have been committed”.

 


Section 354 IPC: Bailable or Not

Offence under Sec 354 IPC criminalising the act of outraging the modesty of a woman through assault or criminal force is listed as cognizable. It reflects that after receiving a complaint under Section 354 IPC, the concerned police officer can arrest without warrant. The accused has to apply for bail in order to regain freedom during the trial. Bail in 354 IPC was initially available as per CrPC[4]. However, the same has been declared as a non-bailable offence after the 2013 amendment to Criminal laws. It may be noted that for non-bailable offences, certain conditions have to be satisfied which may allow the accused to be granted bail.

 

Punishment Under Section 354 IPC

The section 354 IPC punishment constitutes imprisonment which ranges from 1 to 5 years along with fine. Here, it must be noted that it is the discretion of the presiding officer of the court (judicial magistrate) to decide the exact term of imprisonment. However, it is the facts of the case that weigh upon such discretion and not the officer’s personal whims.


Section 354 IPC False Allegation

Criminal laws are made to empower the vulnerable and punish the wrongdoers. However, such laws are often misused by the person with wrong intentions which in return makes the otherwise empowered section of the society vulnerable. In the present context, Section 354 punishes anyone who harms the modesty of a woman. Since ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’ has not been defined by words, there is scope for false allegations. In a 2014 case whereby the accused had accidentally pushed the complainant during a heated altercation, the Bombay High Court held that “Even if you keep your hand on the shoulder of a woman, it is for the lady to comment on the nature of the touch, whether it was friendly, brotherly or fatherly”. Such comments by the judges encourage misuse of the law empowering women negatively in addition to such legal provisions.


Provisions Associated with Sec 354 IPC

While Section 354 IPC prevailed in the original Act of 1860, certain afresh associated provisions were introduced through Criminal Laws Amendment Act, 2013 as explained below:

Sexual Harassment (Section 354A of IPC) - The acts of unwelcome and explicit sexual gesture or sexually colored remarks constitute sexual harassment. Such an act is punishable with imprisonment of upto 3 years or fine or both.

Force to disrobe (Section 354B of IPC) - The provision punishes a man who assaults or uses criminal force against a woman with the intention to disrobe (compelling to be naked). Such an act is punishable with imprisonment of 3 to 7 years and fine.

Voyeurism (Section 354C of IPC) - The provision punishes a man who watches or captures a woman while she is engaged in a private act with an expectation of privacy from any outsider. The offender is liable for imprisonment of 1 to 3 years. However, repetition of such an offence may lead to imprisonment of 3 to 7 years.

Stalking (Section 354D of IPC) - Following a woman physically or through the internet (or any other mode of electronic communication) despite clear indication of disinterest from such woman is an offence. Stalking is generally termed as ‘eve teasing’ and is punishable with imprisonment upto 3 years for the first time. However, subsequent instances may result in imprisonment upto 5 years.


FAQs on 354 IPC


Q- What is the section 354 IPC?

A- The Sec 354 IPC provides for the offence of assault or criminal force against a woman with the intention to outrage her modesty.

 

Q- Is IPC 354 bailable?

A- There is a confusion around ‘Is the offence under Section 354 IPC bailable or not?’. The answer is negative after the introduction of Criminal Laws Amendment Act, 2013. Since then, Sec 354 IPC is a non-bailable offence.

 

Q- What is a compoundable offence? Whether Section 354 IPC is compoundable or not?

A- Compoundable offences under the IPC sections are those offences which can be compromised. The offence under sec 354 IPC was initially compoundable. But the same has been made non-compoundable since the 2009 amendment of the code.[5]

 

Q- What is the punishment of section 354 of the Indian Penal Code?

A- As per Section 354 IPC punishment, the offence of assault or criminal force against a woman with intention to outrage her modesty is punishable with imprisonment of 1 to 5 years with fine.

 

Q- What is outraging modesty as per IPC?

A- Justice Bachawat in a case[6] explained that ‘ The essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex’. Any harm to such modesty of a woman is punishable under 354 IPC. In case of Major Singh[7], the Supreme Court has clarified that ‘Young or old, intelligent or imbecile, awake or sleeping, the woman possesses a modesty capable of being outraged.’

 

Q- When was Section 354 added to IPC?

A- Section 354 IPC was present in the original Indian Penal Code of 1860. However, the nature of offence has changed after criminal law amendments. The scope of Sec 354 IPC has been widened with Criminal Amendment 2013 with the insertion of Sections 354 A, B, C and D.

 

[1] Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

[2] S.P.S. Rathore v. C.B.I, AIR (2016), SC 4486. 

[3] Vidyadharan vs. State of Kerala (2004) 1 SCC 215.

[4] Schedule 1 to Code of Criminal Procedures.

[5] Code of Criminal Procedures Amendment Act, 2008, with effect from 31.12.2009.

[6] Ramkripal v. State of Madhya Pradesh, Criminal Appeal No. 370 of 2007.

[7] State of Punjab v. Major Singh (1967) AIR 63.

Written By:
Vidhikarya

Vidhikarya

Kolkata | Delhi | Mumbai | Bangalore | Chennai | Pune | Vadodara | Nagpur | Goa | Anand

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