Decoding Section 509

-Nandini Rao Budhagavi

 In the Gita, women are considered as the embodiment of true life on mother earth. She is the epitome of calmness, humbleness, purity and a life giver. It is said that unless the mother earth obliged, and woman obliged there would be no life on mother earth, and it would be left to decay and die. We connote earth in the form of mother, who bears the life on earth and sustains all kinds of life forms on earth. It was stated that a person committed sin in this mortal world if that person commits any disservice to women which is punishable without pardon. The Gita is biased towards woman in terms of committing mistake. They were always forgiven no matter how grave a mistake is committed. Life on mother earth carried no meaning if woman is not respected or treated equally and such an act finds no place in a civilized society as per Bhagavad Gita.

Woman is considered analogous to mother earth and demeaning woman is to demean earth. The modesty of woman is in her grace and elegance that she carries it with her humble attitude that radiates with calmness in her. When this calmness is taken for granted and is used as a piece of mockery, it is the gravest sin a person commits. The calmness should not be taken as a weak mind, but it is the strongest of all minds that can bear the weight which is beyond imagination. If this is being insulted, then it is an insult to the whole mankind. 

In the Indian Penal Code of 1860 has expressly mentioned about the acts that insult the modesty of the woman. In Article 354 which talks about the assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty. The Article States that, “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, and shall also be liable to fine.). This article elaborates the actions in terms of outraging the modesty of a woman like the act of pulling a woman, removing her dress coupled with a request for sexual intercourse, is such as would be an outrage to the modesty of a woman, and knowledge that modesty is likely to be outraged, is sufficient to constitute the offence without any deliberate intention having such outrage alone for its object.

In the case of Rupan Deol Bajaj v K.P.S. Gill (1995) 6 SCC 194: 1995 SCC (Cri) 1059, where the accused was held liable under this section as the accused slapped the back of a lady I.A.S. Officer of Punjab Cadre in public place, his act prime facie accounted to the outraging of the modesty of the woman. 

Under Section 509 of the Indian Pena Code, 1860 concerns itself to the word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman. The article reads as, “ Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, (shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and also with fine.). 

In the case of R v Hamilton, a search warrant was executed at the appellant’s home to seize a considerable amount of computer equipment. It transpired that the appellant has used his digital camera to film up the skirts of the 14 years old schoolgirls and the woman shopping in supermarkets by placing the camera superstitiously in a rucksack. The defendant was convicted for committing an act outraging public decency contrary to common law.

In the case of Rupan Deol Bajaj v K.P.S. Gill, it was stated that, ‘If the word uttered or the gesture made could be perceived as one which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman, then it can be found that it is an act od insult to the modesty of the woman.’

The theme of equality among men and woman runs through Islamic teachings also. One of the verses in Qur’an reads, “The men believers and the women believers are responsible for each other. They enjoin the good and forbid the evil, they observe prayers and give charitable alms and obey God and his Prophet.” (Qur’an, 9:71). This clearly depicts that women and men have equal responsibilities for observing Islamic teachings. It is a shame on the name of humanity when such outrageous acts are being done ruthlessly and the only respite women can find in this era is in the judicial system of the country. The Indian Penal Code is very diverse in nature encompassing certain immoral acts also and making rightful amends to it. The judicial system of a country has to be strong and unbiased so that there can be peaceful co-existence of mankind.

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