The Delhi High Court observed that insulting a woman or being rude to her and not behaving in a chivalrous manner will not amount to outraging her modesty. The court noted the statement while setting aside an order that was putting a man on trial for calling a woman "gandi aurat."
The Delhi High Court stated that gender-specific laws weren’t meant to be "anti-opposite gender," but to serve the purpose of addressing unique issues faced by people of a particular gender.
Insulting Woman Or Being Rude Not Outraging Modesty
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma observed that gender-specific legislation exists to address unique concerns and challenges faced by particular genders in society. However, that doesn’t mean that judges would be influenced by gender-related factors while administering justice unless specific presumptions are legislated for a particular gender in law.
She added that judicial neutrality is an indispensable cornerstone of the legal system, which ensures that all parties, regardless of gender, are treated in a fair and equitable manner.
The bench made the observation while setting aside a trial court’s order framing a charge under Section 509 (a word, gesture, or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the IPC.
The man and the woman were working in the same organisation, and the man was her senior. It was alleged by the prosecution that the man used foul language against the woman when she refused to give him Rs. 1000.
The Delhi high court noted that the word "gandi aurat," without any preceding or succeeding words that indicated outrage at the modesty of a woman, will not fall under the ambit of Section 509. It added that if any other words had been used, context given, or any other gesture made accompanying the word, that would have reflected the criminal intent to outrage the modesty of a woman. In that case, the outcome would have been different.
The court stated that after carefully scrutinising the man's actions, it was clear that he lacked the knowledge or the inclination to understand that the claimed use of the word "gandi aurat" would amount to insulting a woman's modesty. Outraging a woman's modesty is not defined to include insulting her or acting impolitely towards her in ways that she would have expected a male to act chivalrously. The court further stated that this would vary according to the facts and circumstances of every case.
In this case, the court saw no evidence of the man's behaviour that he intended to behave in unwanted social conduct, but in the best case, it was a vexatious comment. The court stated that the language used may hinge on harsh and derogatory language but not profane vulgar or sexually coloured.
The court emphasised that legislation aimed at addressing gender-related concerns shouldn't be misunderstood as inherently biased against the opposite gender. In the context of Section 509 of the IPC, the court clarified that this section doesn't automatically favour women and that courts should objectively apply legal principles without undue influence from the section's gender specificity.
However, the court noted that the original intent behind enacting the section should still be considered. The court advised that cases under Section 509 IPC should be approached neutrally and impartially, applying well-established criminal legal principles while upholding justice, fairness, and objectivity in proceedings regardless of the gender-specific nature of the law.
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