Written by: Urvi Malhotra
SECTION 354 IN THE INDIAN PENAL CODE
Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code is a critical legal provision aimed at safeguarding the dignity and modesty of women. It penalizes assault or the use of criminal force against a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty. This section reflects the legal system’s commitment to protect women from gender-based crimes and uphold their rights and dignity in society.
IPC SECTION 354– ASSAULT OR CRIMINAL FORCE TO WOMAN WITH INTEND 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.
- 1-5 Years punishment, or with fine or both.
- Presence/ Absence of consent of the woman is the deciding factor in this offence.
- Who is a woman?
Section 10 defines ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ as a male and female human being respectively of any age.
- What is modesty of woman?
Modesty of a woman is a virtue attacked to a woman owing to her ‘sex’
Under Section 354 IPC, a ‘woman’ is defined as any female human being of any age. The concept of ‘modesty’ is a quality attached to a woman due to her gender. This was notably interpreted in the case of Tarkeshwar Sahu v. State of Bihar, where the court emphasized the inherent nature of modesty in a woman, irrespective of her age or conscious understanding of it.
( Tarkeshwar Sahu v. State of Bihar (now Jharkhand), (2006) )
Does a girl who has not gained puberty and not developed a sex instinct has a concept of modesty?
- In State of Punjab v. Major Singh (AIR 1967 SC 63), the accused went into a room, switched off the lights, stripped himself naked. And performed indecent act of unnatural lust by ‘fingering the vagina’ of 7.5-month old girl.
- It was argued on his behalf that this won’t attract IPC section 354 because a child of 7.5 month is not capable of developing a sex instinct so she doesn’t have any concept of modesty which could be outraged.
- Trial court and High court accepted this contention but Hon’ble Supreme Court said that yes, the modesty is based on her sex but that modesty is with every woman from her birth. Yes, sometimes the reaction of the woman on the act is very important to constitute an offence but absence of such a reaction does not mean that IPC Section 354 would not apply.
- The Supreme Court ruled that the modesty of a woman is inherent from birth. The case involved a heinous act against a minor, and the Court’s decision underscored that age does not diminish the essence of modesty in a female, thus extending protection to all women under Section 354 IPC.
IPC SECTION 354A- Sexual Harassment and punishment for sexual harassment.
- A man committing any of the following acts-
- Physical contact and advances involving unwelcomed and explicit sexual overtures; or
- A demand or request for sexual favours; or
- Showing pornography against the Will of a woman, or
- Making sexually coloured remarks,
- Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (i) or clause (ii) or clause (iii) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
- Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.
VISHAKHA V. STATE OF RAJASTHAN (AIR 1997 SC 3011)
- IPC Section 354A was added by an amendment in 2013. Before that the governing law on sexual harassment at workplace didn’t exist and was added by “Vaisakha Guidelines” given in this case.
- Section 354A, introduced following the Vishakha Guidelines, specifically addresses sexual harassment. It encompasses various forms of unwelcome sexual behavior, including physical contact, demands for sexual favors, showing pornography against a woman’s will, and making sexually colored remarks. The punishment for such offenses ranges up to three years of imprisonment or fine, or both.
- Sexual harassment was described as any unwelcomed sexually determined behaviour (whether directly, indirectly or implied) like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and other unwelcomed physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct of sexual nature.
IPC SECTION 354B- Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe.
Any man who assaults or uses criminal force against any woman or abets such act with the intention of disrobing or compelling her to be naked, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
It is non-bailable and cognizable offence.
“ASSAULT” basically means to attack someone physically. Assault does not only mean a physical attack, verbal acts and gestures are also included in IPC section 354B.
Section 354B deals with the assault or use of criminal force against a woman with the intent to disrobe her. This section recognizes the severe violation of a woman’s privacy and dignity in such acts and imposes a stringent punishment of imprisonment ranging from three to seven years, along with a fine. It’s a non-bailable and cognizable offense, reflecting the seriousness with which the law views such violations.
IPC SECTION 354C- VOYEURISM.
Any man who watches, or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall be either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Intruding person’s privacy and personal space comes under IPC section 354C.
For example– Placing a camera in trial rooms in different places or if the videos or images are circulated against the desire or will of the person. It includes uploading of nude pictures or semi-nude pictures on the internet. It is one of the most rampant crimes, starting India in its face today.
Section 354C of the IPC tackles voyeurism, penalizing the act of watching or capturing the image of a woman in a private act without her consent. This section addresses the violation of privacy in the digital age, where such acts can include placing cameras in private spaces or circulating intimate images without consent. The punishment for voyeurism can extend up to three years of imprisonment and a fine.
For the purpose of this section, “private act” includes an act of watching carried out in a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy and where the victim’s genitals, posterior or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory; or the victim is doing a sexual act that is not of a kind which is ordinarily done in public.
Where the victims consent to the capture of the images or any act, but not to their dissemination to third person and where such image or act is disseminated, such dissemination shall be considered an offence under this section.
IPC SECTION 354D- STALKING.
- Any man who-
- Follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or
- Monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, commits the offence of stalking: Provided that such conduct shall not amount to stalking if the man who pursued it proves that-
- It was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and the man accused of stealing had been entrusted with the responsibility of prevention and detection of crime by the State; or
- It was pursued under any law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any law; or
- In the particular circumstances such conduct was reasonable and justified. It is also the wilful, malicious, and repeatedly following or harassing of a specific person which threatens his life or safety.
- The attack must be against a woman,
- The offender must have used excessive force from his side,
- The modesty of woman should be offended by the actions of offender
Modes of stalking in India-
- Following the girl,
- Sending unwanted letters or make phone calls that are not needed,
- Trying to have a forceful communication,
- Taking unnecessary pictures of a girl,
- Physical assault and threatening to physically assault,
- Visiting girl’s home for unnecessary purposes and standing outside her residence,
- Sending unwanted gifts or presents,
- Spreading rumours,
- Stalking through social media and different apps.
Types of stalkers
- Rejected stalker- Those who have personal grudges such as divorce, separation, etc. and in order to take revenge they follow someone, are known as rejected stalkers.
- Resentful stalkers– Those who follow or stalk someone in anger or past hatred are known as resentful stalkers
- Heroic stalkers– Those who follow or stalk someone in belief that they will get love, relationship, intimacy, etc. from the victim, so they are known as heroic stalkers.
- Predatory stalkers– Those who follow the victim in order to make plans for the attack and sexual harassment on the victim are known as predatory stalkers.
- Whoever commits the offence of staling shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine; and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Difference between section 354, 354A, 354B, 354C and 354D of IPC in Tabular Form
|Assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty.
|Up to 2 years imprisonment, or fine, or both.
|Focus on acts infringing a woman’s modesty.
|Sexual harassment, including unwelcome sexual behavior and demands.
|Up to 3 years of imprisonment, or fine, or both.
|Covers physical contact, demands, and sexually colored remarks.
|Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe.
|Imprisonment of 3 to 7 years, and fine.
|Specific to actions aimed at disrobing a woman.
|Voyeurism: Watching or capturing a woman in a private act without consent.
|1 to 3 years of imprisonment and fine for first conviction.
|Involves invasion of privacy in personal spaces.
|Stalking: Following a woman and contacting her against her will.
|Imprisonment upto 3 years for first conviction and upto 5 years for subsequent offenses and fine.
|Includes persistent, unwanted attention and contact.
If a person is charged with an offence under Section 354 of the IPC, they will need to hire a criminal defence lawyer who is experienced in dealing with cases related to crimes against women. Century Law Firm is a well-respected law firm that has a team of experienced criminal lawyers who have successfully represented clients charged with offences under Section 354 of the IPC.
If you have been charged with an offence under Section 354 of the IPC, it is important that you seek legal representation as soon as possible. A good criminal defence lawyer can help you understand the charges against you, guide you through the legal process, and fight for your rights in court. Contact Century Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced criminal defence lawyers.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Section 354 of IPC
Q: What is Section 354 of the IPC? A: Section 354 of the IPC deals with the offence of assault or criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty.
Q: What is the punishment for IPC Section 354? A: The punishment for the offence under Section 354 IPC is imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
Q: What are the sub-sections under IPC Section 354? A: The following are the sub-sections under IPC Section 354:
- Section 354A: Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment
- Section 354B: Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe
- Section 354C: Voyeurism and punishment for voyeurism
- Section 354D: Stalking and punishment for stalking
Q: What is the definition of “outraging the modesty of a woman”? A: “Outraging the modesty of a woman” refers to any act, word, or gesture that is intended to insult the modesty of a woman. This includes any unwelcome physical contact, advances, or gestures, as well as any verbal or non-verbal conduct that is sexually coloured.
Q: Is IPC Section 354 a compoundable offence? IPC Section 354 is a non-compoundable offence, which means that the victim cannot withdraw the case against the accused, even if they want to. The case will proceed to trial, and it will be up to the court to decide whether the accused is guilty or not.
Q: What is the procedure for filing a complaint under Section 354 IPC? The procedure for filing a complaint under Section 354 IPC involves approaching the police and filing an FIR. The FIR should contain the details of the incident and the identity of the accused.