What constitutes an outrage to female modesty

The provision of Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 makes penal assault or use of criminal force to a woman to outrage her modesty which reads as follows:

354. Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty

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 may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

The essential ingredients of the offence under Section 354 IPC are as under:

  • (a) That the assault must be on a woman.
  • (b) That the accused must have used criminal force on her.
  • (c) That the criminal force must have been used on the woman intending thereby to outrage her modesty.

What constitutes an outrage to female modesty is nowhere defined in IPC. The culpable intention of the accused is the crux of the matter. The reaction of the woman is very relevant, but its absence is not always decisive. Modesty in this Section is an attribute associated with female human beings as a class.

It is a virtue which attaches to a female owing to her sex. The act of pulling a woman, coupled with a request for sexual intercourse, is such as would be an outrage to the modestyof 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.

The Shorter Oxford Dictionary (Third Edn.) defines the word ‘modesty’ in relation to woman as follows:

“Decorous in manner and conduct; not forward or lower; Shame-fast; Scrupulously chast.”

{The above discussion extracted from a recent judgment of Allahabad High Court in Jag Mohan Vs State of U.P. dated 9th June 2016 authored by Justice Dr. Vijay Laxmi}