Woman's attire not license to outrage her modesty: Kerala HC

Justice Kauser Edappagath said objectifying a woman based on what she wears "cannot be justified" and it should not be believed that women dress only to lure male attention.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

KOCHI: A woman's attire cannot be a license to outrage her modesty nor can it be a ground for absolving the accused who committed such a crime, the Kerala High Court has said.

Justice Kauser Edappagath said objectifying a woman based on what she wears "cannot be justified" and it should not be believed that women dress only to lure male attention.

"There is no reason why a woman should be judged by her clothes. Norms that categorize women based on her attire and expressions can never be tolerated. There cannot be any thought that women dress only to lure male attention. It is wrong to say that a woman was sexually assaulted just because she was wearing provocative clothes."

"Sexually provocative dressing of a victim cannot be construed as a legal ground to absolve an accused from the charge of insulting the modesty of a woman. The right to wear any dress is a natural extension of personal freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Even if a woman wears a sexually provocative dress, that cannot give a license to a man to outrage her modesty," the judge observed in its October 13 order.

The observation by the court came while expunging from a bail order of a sessions court the remarks that offence of molestation would not be attracted as the victim was wearing a sexually provocative dress.

This remark was made by a sessions court in the anticipatory bail granted to writer and social activist 'Civic' Chandran in a sexual harassment case.

While expunging the controversial remarks, the judge upheld the relief granted to the social activist, saying that the complainant-victim was an educated lady who was unable to satisfactorily explain the delay of over two-and-a-half years in lodging the complaint after the alleged incident occurred.

The court also said that even according to the prosecution, the investigation was almost over and therefore, in view of the facts and circumstances of the case, "custodial interrogation of the accused does not appear to be necessary".

It said the sessions court had not imposed sufficient conditions on Chandran while granting him the relief and directed that he shall be released on bail, if arrested, on executing a bond of Rs one lakh with two solvent sureties of the like amount.

The other conditions imposed on him by the high court are that he shall fully cooperate with the probe, shall appear before the investigating officer every Saturday between 10 AM and 11 AM and also as when required by the police, shall not make any attempt to contact any of the prosecution witnesses or tamper with evidence and shall not leave Kerala without permission of the lower court.

With these directions, the judge disposed of the pleas moved by the state and the complainant woman challenging the anticipatory bail granted to 74-year-old Chandran.

The Sessions Court in its August 12 order had observed that the offence under sexual harassment is not prima facie attracted when the woman was wearing "sexually provocative dress" and it sparked a widespread controversy.

Chandran has been accused in two sexual harassment cases, one by a writer and belonging to a Scheduled Tribe community, alleging sexual harassment by him during a book exhibition here in April.

The other was by a young writer, who accused him of sexual harassment during a book exhibition in town in February 2020.

He was granted anticipatory bail in both cases by the same sessions court.

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The New Indian Express