In M.R. Sivaramakrishnan v State and another, 2022 the Madras High Court concluded that harassment of a woman would still be an offence punishable under Section 354 IPC while rejecting a petition to quash the final report with regard to a sexual harassment case on the grounds that the harassment did not occur in a public place.
The Metropolitan Magistrate court had received a petition from a man named Sivaramakrishnan asking for the final report against him to be thrown out. The petitioner is alleged to have intimidated the de facto complaint regarding an ongoing civil lawsuit while also harassing the sister and de facto complainant in connection with a parking issue.
Harassment Is Offence
Charges were framed under Sections 341, 294(b), 323, 506(i) of IPC and Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, 2002 against the Petitioner.
The petitioner asserted that the accused offence did not occur in a public area, but rather inside the home. He said that because Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, 2002 required the offence to be committed in a “public place,” it would not be possible to prove it. According to the respondent’s statement, neither the petitioner nor the de facto complainant’s home was where the incident occurred; rather, it happened on a public walkway.
According to the court, only during the trial via the testimony of the witnesses could the precise location of the incident be determined. Moreover, there were sufficient materials to charge the petitioner for the offences under Sections 341, 294(b), 323, 506(i) of IPC and Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002.
The court dismissed the petition after determining that it was inappropriate to call the records and suppress them at this point. The petitioner was permitted by the court to use the arguments as his defence at trial.
Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 2002 reads as under,
“4. Penalty of (harassment of woman) – whoever commits or participates in or abets (harassment of woman) in or within the precincts of any educational institution, temple or other place of worship, bus stop, road, railway station, cinema theatre, park, beach, place of festival, public service vehicle or vessel or any other place shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine which shall not be less than thousand rupees“.
Relying on Ejusdem Generis principle, the Petitioner pleaded that only crimes committed in public places qualify as crimes under the Act.
The respondents, however, argued that the purpose of the special act was to stop harassment and that the location of the incident did not matter.
The petitioner has not made out any challenges, the court noted, with the exception of the technical interpretation. Additionally, even if the crime was not committed in a public area, it would still be punishable under the IPC, and the court is free to penalize the defendant for any other, lesser crime that is cognizable in nature.
The views expressed are the author’s own.