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Saturday, October 5, 2013

sec. 354 outrage the modesty of women is to be considered stringy, no lenient view - Ajahar Ali ... Appellant VERSUS State of West Bengal ... Respondent published in judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=40857

 Sec. 354 outrage the modesty of women is to be considered stringy, no lenient view should be taken while granting punishment - Due to delay of 18 years, the accused is not entitled  to any benefit under the provisions of Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 - No lenient view
The provisions of Section 354 IPC has been enacted to  safeguard
      public morality and decent behaviour.  Therefore, if any  person  uses
      criminal force upon any woman with the intention or knowledge that the
      woman’s modesty will be outraged, he is to be punished. =

 In Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan & Ors., AIR 1997 SC 3011
      and Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra, AIR 1999 SC  625,
      this court held that the offence relating to modesty of  woman  cannot
      be treated as  trivial  and  a  lenient  view  by  giving  six  months
      imprisonment  on  the  ground   of   juvenility   does   not   require
      consideration.
      18.   In Chinnadurai v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR  1996  SC  546,  this
      Court  rejected  the  plea  for  reduction  of  sentence  in  view  of
      considerable delay and other circumstances observing that sentence has
      to be awarded taking into consideration the gravity of the injuries.
 In view of the above, we are of considered opinion that  as  the
      appellant had been awarded only six months  imprisonment,  considering
      the matter under the JJ Act, 2000 would not serve any purpose at  such
      a belated stage.   The  High  Court  had  been  of  the  opinion  that
      appellant had been dealt with very leniently and it  was  a  fit  case
      where the High Court wanted to enhance the  sentence  but  considering
      the fact  that  the  incident  occurred  long  back,  the  High  Court
      refrained to do so.
      22.   Thus, the  appeal  fails  and  is  accordingly  dismissed.   The
      appellant is directed to surrender within a period of  four  weeks  to
      serve out the sentence, failing which the Chief  Judicial  Magistrate,
      Malda, is directed to take him into custody to serve out the sentence.
       A copy of the order be sent to Chief Judicial Magistrate,  Malda  for
      information and action.
                                                                  REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1623 OF 2013
                (Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No. 2817 of 2013)


      Ajahar Ali
      ... Appellant


                                   VERSUS


      State of West Bengal
      ... Respondent




                               J U D G M E N T


      Dr. B.S. Chauhan, J.




        1. Leave granted.


        2. This appeal has been preferred against the impugned judgment and
           order dated 19.9.2012  passed by the High Court of  Calcutta  in
           Criminal Revision No. 3240 of 2012  affirming the  judgment  and
           order of the learned Sessions Judge dated  22.8.2012  dismissing
           the appeal of the appellant against the judgment  and  order  of
           the learned Magistrate dated 9.5.2012, by which  and  whereunder
           the learned Magistrate had found the appellant  guilty  for  the
           offence punishable under Section 354 of Indian Penal Code,  1860
           (hereinafter referred to as the ‘IPC’).  He had  been  sentenced
           to suffer SI for 6 months and further to pay a fine of Rs.1,000/-
           , and in default of payment of fine, further to undergo  SI  for
           two months.

        3. Facts and circumstances giving rise to appeal are that:
      A.    On 6.11.1995, Nasima Begum (PW.1), aged about 16 years  filed  a
      complaint alleging that on that day while she was going to attend  her
      tuition alongwith her friend Nilufa Khatun, she met the  appellant  on
      the way who suddenly came and forcibly caught hold  of  her  hair  and
      planted a kiss, resultantly, she suffered a cut over her lower lip and
      started bleeding.
      B.     A  case  under  Section  354/324  IPC  was  registered.   After
      conducting the trial, the court of Ist Judicial Magistrate, Ist Court,
      Malda vide judgment and  order  dated  9.5.2012  found  the  appellant
      guilty for offence under Section 354 IPC and sentenced him as referred
      to hereinabove.
      C.    Aggrieved, the appellant  preferred  Criminal  Appeal  No.2/2012
      before the learned Sessions Judge,  Malda  and  the  said  appeal  was
      dismissed vide judgment and order dated 22.8.2012.
      D.     Appellant  challenged  both  the  aforesaid  orders  by  filing
      Criminal Revision before the High Court which has  been  dismissed  by
      the impugned judgment and order dated 19.9.2012.
            Hence, this appeal.


      4.    Shri S.C. Ghosh, learned counsel appearing for the appellant has
      half-heartedly challenged the findings of fact recorded by the  courts
      below.
However, we are not inclined to re-appreciate the evidence  and
      disturb the findings recorded  by  the  three  courts,  therefore,  he
      argued that since the incident occurred more than 18 years ago and  at
      that time the appellant as well as the complainant were about 16 years
      of age, the court should not send the appellant to   jail  at  such  a
      belated stage.
Considering the fact that the appellant  was  juvenile
      in view of the provisions of Juvenile Justice Act,  2000  (hereinafter
      referred to as the ‘JJ Act 2000’), he ought to have been tried  before
      the Juvenile Justice Board and not by the criminal court, as was done.
     
Even otherwise, considering the time gap of 18 years and the fact that
      the appellant as well as the complainant have  settled  in   life  and
      both of them are married and have children, their lives should not  be
      disturbed.  In all circumstances, the court should give the benefit to
      the appellant under the provisions of Probation of Offenders Act, 1958
      (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Act  1958’).  Therefore,  the  appeal
      deserves to be allowed.
      5.    On the other hand, Shri Anip Sachthey, learned Standing  counsel
      appearing for  the  State  of  West  Bengal  has  opposed  the  appeal
      contending that considering the nature of offence wherein the  modesty
      of a young girl was outraged, the question of showing any leniency  or
      granting the benefit of the Act 1958 is not  warranted.  Even  if  the
      case of the appellant is considered under the JJ Act 2000, the maximum
      punishment that can be awarded is of 3 years,  while  in  the  instant
      case, the appellant had been  sentenced  only  for  a  period  of  six
      months. Therefore, it will be a futile exercise to consider  the  case
      of the appellant on that anvil. Thus,  the  appeal  is  liable  to  be
      dismissed.


      6.    We have considered the rival submissions made by learned counsel
      for the parties and perused the record.


      7.    In view of the concurrent findings recorded by the three  courts
      below, we are not inclined to re-appreciate the  evidence.   The  same
      is also not warranted in view of the fact that the complainant, Nasima
      Begum who had no enmity against the appellant has been very consistent
      about the factual matrix not only in her statement under  Section  161
      of Code of  Criminal  Procedure,  1973  (hereinafter  referred  to  as
      `Cr.P.C.’) but also before the court and had supported the prosecution
      case fully. Her version was corroborated by  several  other  witnesses
      and the courts below have recorded a finding that  the  appellant  was
      guilty beyond reasonable doubt.


      8.    Learned counsel for the appellant pleads  for  leniency  on  the
      ground that the trial has gone on for a long time; furthermore, he has
      no previous criminal history and that he may lose his  job.   For  the
      purpose of seeking a benefit under the Act 1958 he has placed reliance
      on the judgment of this Court in Mohamed Aziz Mohamed Nasir  v.  State
      of Maharashtra, AIR 1976 SC 730, wherein the benefit of the  Act  1958
      was given observing further that even if such plea had not been raised
      before the court below, it can be raised for  the  first  time  before
      this court.   That was a case under Section 379 r/w Section 34 IPC and
      the charge against the said appellant was snatching  two  sarees  from
      one Govind who was carrying them from the shop of  his master to  that
      of a washer and dyer.


      9.    In Musa Khan & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1976  DV  2566,
      this Court observed that the purpose of the provisions of the Act 1958
      is to reform the juvenile offenders though  that was a case of Section
      149 IPC and the court held that culpable liability does not arise from
      mere  presence  in  the  assembly  and  even  participation  does  not
      necessarily lead to  the  conclusion  that  he  joined  that  unlawful
      assembly willingly.


      10.   This Court in Karamjit Singh v. State of Punjab,  (2009)  7  SCC
      178, to which one of us (Dr. B.S. Chauhan, J.) was  a  member  of  the
      Bench, after considering various earlier  judgments  and  particularly
      Om Prakash & Ors. v. State of Haryana, (2001) 10 SCC 477 and  Manjappa
      v. State of Karnataka, (2007) 6 SCC 231; held  that a relief under the
      Act 1958 should be granted in the offences which were not  of  a  very
      grave nature or where the mens rea is absent.


      11.   In State of Himachal Pradesh v. Dharam Pal, (2004)  9  SCC  681,
      this Court considered the appeal of  the  State  of  Himachal  Pradesh
      wherein the benefit of the Act 1958 had been given to the accused  who
      was held guilty for offence under Section 376/511  IPC for attempt  to
      commit rape. This Court in the peculiar  facts  and  circumstances  of
      that case did  not interfere with the judgment and order of  the  High
      Court, but at the same time did not approve of the reasoning given  by
      the High Court. The court held as under :


           “According to us, the offence of an attempt to commit rape is  a
           serious offence, as ultimately if translated into the act  leads
           to an assault on the most valuable possession of  a  woman  i.e.
           character, reputation, dignity and honour. In a traditional  and
           conservative country like India, any  attempt  to  misbehave  or
           sexually assault a woman is one of the most depraved  acts.  The
           Act is intended to reform the persons who can  be  reformed  and
           would cease to be a nuisance in the society. But the  discretion
           to exercise the jurisdiction under Section 4 is  hedged  with  a
           condition about the nature of offence and the character  of  the
           offender. Section 6 of the Act makes the  provisions  applicable
           in  cases  where  offenders  are  under  21  years  of  age,  as
           restrictions on imprisonment of offenders have been indicated in
           the said provision. In a  case  involving  similar  facts,  this
           Court in State of Haryana v. Prem Chand, (1997) 7 SCC 756 upheld
           the judgment of the High Court which  extended  the  benefit  of
           provisions under Section 4 of the Act. Considering the  peculiar
           circumstances of the case and taking into account the fact  that
           on the date of occurrence the accused was  less  than  21  years
           old, we feel this is a case where no interference is called  for
           with the  judgment  of  the  High  Court,  though  some  of  the
           conclusions arrived at  by  the  High  Court  do  not  have  our
           approval.”




      12.   In the instant case, as the appellant has  committed  a  heinous
      crime and with the social condition prevailing  in  the  society,  the
      modesty of a woman has to be strongly guarded  and  as  the  appellant
      behaved like a road side Romeo, we do not think it is a fit case where
      the benefit of the Act 1958 should be given to the appellant.
      13.   This brings us to the next question regarding the  applicability
      of JJ Act 2000. This issue has been raised for the first time in  this
      court and the appellant can do so in view of the larger Bench judgment
      of this Court in Abuzar Hossain @  Gulam  Hossain  v.  State  of  West
      Bengal, (2012) 10 SCC 489, wherein  it  was  held  that  the  plea  of
      juvenility can be raised at any stage irrespective of delay in raising
      the same. But the question that would arise  is  if  the  matter  came
      before the Juvenile Justice Board, the maximum sentence  that  can  be
      awarded in such a case is of  3  years.   In  the  instant  case,  the
      punishment awarded is only six months so the cause of the appellant is
      not prejudiced.
      14.   The provisions of Section 354 IPC has been enacted to  safeguard
      public morality and decent behaviour.  Therefore, if any  person  uses
      criminal force upon any woman with the intention or knowledge that the
      woman’s modesty will be outraged, he is to be punished.
      15.   In State of Punjab v. Major Singh, AIR 1967 SC  63,  this  Court
      observed that modesty is the quality of being modest which  means   as
      regards women, decent in  manner  and  conduct,  scrupulously  chaste,
      though the word ‘modesty’ has  not  been  defined  in  the  Code.  The
      ultimate test for determining whether modesty  has  been  outraged  is
      whether the action of the offender as such can  be  perceived  as  one
      which is capable of lowering the sense of decency of a woman.
      (See also: Aman Kumar v. State of Haryana,  AIR  2004  SC  1497;  Raju
      Pandurang Mahale v. State  of  Maharashtra,  AIR  2004  SC  1677;  and
      Turkeshwar Sahu v. State of Bihar, (2006) 8 SCC  560).


      16.   In Mrs. Rupan Deol Bajaj & Anr. v. Kanwar Pal Singh Gill & Anr.,
      AIR 1996 SC 309,  slapping  a  woman  on  her  posterior  amounted  to
      outraging of her modesty within the meaning of Sections  354  and  509
      IPC.
      17.   In Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan & Ors., AIR 1997 SC 3011
      and Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra, AIR 1999 SC  625,
      this court held that the offence relating to modesty of  woman  cannot
      be treated as  trivial  and  a  lenient  view  by  giving  six  months
      imprisonment  on  the  ground   of   juvenility   does   not   require
      consideration.
      18.   In Chinnadurai v. State of Tamil Nadu, AIR  1996  SC  546,  this
      Court  rejected  the  plea  for  reduction  of  sentence  in  view  of
      considerable delay and other circumstances observing that sentence has
      to be awarded taking into consideration the gravity of the injuries.


      19.   In State of U.P. v.  Shri Kishan, AIR 2005 SC 1250,  this  Court
      has emphasised that just and proper sentence should be  imposed.   The
      Court held:
            “…… Any liberal attitude by imposing meager sentences or taking
           too sympathetic view merely on  account  of  lapse  of  time  in
           respect of such offences will be result-wise counter  productive
           in the long run and against societal interest which needs to  be
           cared for and strengthened by string of  deterrence  inbuilt  in
           the sentencing system.
                 The Court will  be  failing  in  its  duty  if  appropriate
           punishment is not awarded for a crime which has  been  committed
           not only against the individual  victim  but  also  against  the
           society to which the criminal and victim belong. The  punishment
           to be awarded for a crime must not be irrelevant but  it  should
           conform to and be consistent with  the  atrocity  and  brutality
           with which the crime has been perpetrated, the enormity  of  the
           crime warranting public abhorrence and it should ‘respond to the
           society's cry for justice against the criminal’.”

           (Emphasis added)




      20.   In Sadhupati Nageswara Rao v.  State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 2012
      SC 3242, this Court observed that the courts cannot take lenient  view
      in awarding sentence on the ground of sympathy or delay  as  the  same
      cannot be any ground for reduction of sentence.


      21.   In view of the above, we are of considered opinion that  as  the
      appellant had been awarded only six months  imprisonment,  considering
      the matter under the JJ Act, 2000 would not serve any purpose at  such
      a belated stage.   The  High  Court  had  been  of  the  opinion  that
      appellant had been dealt with very leniently and it  was  a  fit  case
      where the High Court wanted to enhance the  sentence  but  considering
      the fact  that  the  incident  occurred  long  back,  the  High  Court
      refrained to do so.
      22.   Thus, the  appeal  fails  and  is  accordingly  dismissed.   The
      appellant is directed to surrender within a period of  four  weeks  to
      serve out the sentence, failing which the Chief  Judicial  Magistrate,
      Malda, is directed to take him into custody to serve out the sentence.
       A copy of the order be sent to Chief Judicial Magistrate,  Malda  for
      information and action.
                                       ….………………..........J.            (DR.
                                       B.S. CHAUHAN)



      …...................................J.
          NEW DELHI;                               (S.A. BOBDE)
      October 4,  2013
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