Supreme Court dismisses appeal by ‘roadside Romeo’ who caught a girl by hair and kissed her on a road in Kolkata
The Supreme Court has asked trial courts and High Courts not to show any leniency to the accused, even if he happens to be a minor, when the offence he committed was against a woman, particularly outraging her modesty.
Section 354 IPC has been enacted to safeguard public morality and decent behaviour. Therefore, if any person uses criminal force on any woman with intent to outrage her modesty or with the knowledge that her modesty will be outraged, he is to be punished.
“The ultimate test for determining whether modesty has been outraged is whether the action of the offender as such can be perceived as one which is capable of lowering the sense of decency of a woman,” said a Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde
In the instant case, a 16-year-old girl filed a complaint against Ajahar Ali who, she said, suddenly caught her by the hair and planted a kiss when she was on her way to her tuition class in Kolkata on November 6, 1995. She suffered a cut in the lower lip and started bleeding.
The trial court on May 9, 2012, after a gap of about 17 years, sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment. Though the Calcutta High Court wanted to enhance the punishment, it did not do so considering the long delay.
The present appeal by Ajahar Ali is against this judgment, seeking benefit under the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act. He contended that being a juvenile at the time of the offence, he ought to have been tried under the Juvenile Justice Act by the Juvenile Justice Board. Even otherwise, considering the time gap and the fact that he and the complainant had settled in life and both of them were married and had children, their lives should not be disturbed.
Writing the judgment and rejecting his plea, Justice Chauhan said: “As the appellant has committed a heinous crime and … behaved like a roadside Romeo, we do not think it is a fit case where the benefit of the PO Act should be given to him.”
On the applicability of the JJ Act, the Bench said if the matter came before the Juvenile Justice Board, the maximum sentence in such a case was three years. But the punishment awarded to the appellant was only six months and so his cause was not prejudiced.
The Bench held that the offence against the modesty of woman could not be treated as trivial. Quoting earlier decisions, it said: “The courts cannot take a lenient view in awarding sentence on the ground of sympathy or delay as the same cannot be any ground for reduction of sentence.”
The Bench directed the appellant to surrender himself, failing which the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Malda, would take him into custody to serve out the sentence.