Can Following and Abusing Women Be Just 'Annoyance'?

The Bombay High Court stated that following a woman a couple of times, abusing her, and pushing her by the bicycle can be 'annoying' acts but not an offence under 354 Section of the IPC, in which a person is convicted for outraging a woman's modesty.

Rudrani Gupta
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In a shocking judgement, the Bombay High Court stated that following a woman a couple of times, abusing her, and pushing her by the bicycle can be 'annoying' acts but not an offence under 354 Section of the Indian Penal Code, in which a person is convicted for outraging a woman's modesty. The court said this while allowing criminal revision applications filed by Mohammed Ejaj Shaikh Ismail and acquitting him from the charges.


While the court deemed these acts merely 'annoying' and not constituting an offense under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), it is imperative to delve into the profound repercussions of such incidents, questioning whether the legal stance aligns with the harsh realities women face.

Understanding the Court's Stance

The woman complainant said that Ismail followed her on a bicycle when she was going to the market and pushed her. She also said that he had abused and followed her before. 

However, the court headed by Justice Anil L. Pansare said, "As regards following and abusing P.W. 1 (victim), the said act cannot be said to be capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman. The act may be annoying, but it definitely would not shock the sense of decency of a woman."

The court also stated that the woman had not indicated which body part exactly was touched or pushed by the man inappropriately. 

The court said, "Merely because the applicant has on bicycle given a push to the complainant, to my mind, this cannot be said to be an act that is capable of shocking the sense of decency of the complainant. The act may be offensive or annoying, but it cannot be said to be compromising the decency of a woman."


The court's decision hinged on the distinction between 'annoyance' and 'outraging modesty.' While legally dissecting the case, the judgment highlighted the absence of specific evidence indicating inappropriate touching or compromising the decency of the woman. This decision, while legally sound, has sparked a crucial conversation on the societal implications of such acts.

Modesty encompasses not only physical violations but also the invasion of one's personal space, the erosion of a woman's sense of security, and the violation of her right to move freely without fear.

Consequently, the court acquitted Ismail of the charges and orders imposed by the Sessions Court and Magistrate Court in Wardha. 

The court referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Raju Pandurang Mahale v. State of Maharashtra, in which the court laid down the ingredients of Section 354. As per the court, a person can be booked under this section if they assault a woman and use criminal force on her with the intention of outraging her modesty. 

Yes, Section 354 of the IPC outlines the offense of using criminal force with the intent to outrage a woman's modesty.But here's the real question: Does the psychological torment inflicted by stalking not constitute an outrage?

The Bombay HC Verdict: A Questionable Standpoint


The judgement is shocking, as it makes us scared about women's safety in our society. How can a court say that following a woman a couple of times or abusing her is not an offence? How can it normalise stalking as an 'annoying' act that doesn't need legal intervention?

Stalking is not merely a series of annoying acts; it is a grave offense that can have profound psychological and emotional implications for the victim. Beyond the surface of annoyance lies the unsettling reality that stalking can instill fear, anxiety, and trauma in the victim's life, leaving scars that can last a lifetime.

Have we forgotten the horror of the Ballabgarh incident? A 21-year-old girl was shot dead by her stalker in broad daylight outside her college in the year 2020. What is the guarantee that the woman in this case will not meet this fate if she doesn't take any action? 

In our society, there are two layers of obstacles when it comes to reporting gender crimes. The first is rooted in families and society. Families and society do not allow a woman to stand up against injustice and walk into a police station to report a crime. They make women internalise the injustice they face and shut themselves up for fear of shame. Yes, in our society, not the perpetrator but the woman who faced the crime is shamed and assassinated.

By hook or by crook, even if a woman crosses this obstacle, she meets another at the court. Here, the struggle is about proving the crime. Here she is again subjected to shameful trials in the name of recording evidence for the gender crime. For example, in the case mentioned above, the court expected the complainant to describe which body part was touched inappropriately. Is the statement that a woman was touched inappropriately not enough to understand that her modesty was outraged? Why should someone as educated and empowered as a judge ask which body part was touched? Asking such questions only makes a woman relive the trauma that she faced while being harassed.

While legal interpretations are crucial, they must not lose sight of the human aspect of the issues at hand.


Why are these obstacles in the way of fighting against injustice? Why is there literally nothing, not even fear, in the way of those who commit the injustice? If these obstacles quash every woman's courage to fight against injustice, it is only natural that the courage of the perpetrators will increase. So where are we going as a society? 


Views expressed are the author's own

Bombay High Court Stalking women street harassment gender crime