Kerala court's observation in bail order in sexual harassment case sparks controversy
An observation made by a District Sessions Court in Kerala that the offence under sexual harassment is not prima facie attracted, when the woman was wearing "sexually provocative dress" has sparked a controversy with the state women commission strongly deploring it.
The court made the observation last week while granting bail to 74-year-old social activist and writer Civic Chandran in a sexual abuse case.
In its August 12 order, the Kozhikode Sessions Court had observed that the photograph of the complainant, produced by the accused along with the bail application, would explain that she "herself is exposing to dresses which are having some sexual provocative one" and it is impossible to believe that a man aged 74 and physically disabled can forcefully put the complainant on his lap and sexually press her breast."
The court said inorder to attract IPC Section 354 A (Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment) there must be physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures, there must be demand or request for sexual favours and there must be a sexually coloured remarks.
"The photographs produced along with the bail application by the accused would reveal that the defacto complainant herself is exposing to dresses which are having some sexual provocative one. So sexual 354A will not prima facie stand against the accused.
"Even admitting that there was a physical contact, it is impossible to believe that a man aged 74 and physically disabled can forcefully put the defacto complainant in his lap and sexually press her breast", the court had observed and granted bail to the accused saying it was a "fit case wherein the accused can be granted bail."
Expressing concern over the observations made by the court, Kerala Women's Commission Chairperson P Satheedevi termed it "unfortunate" and said by making such references even before the evidence is presented and the trial is held, the court is effectively dismissing the allegations levelled by the complainant.
"This sends a very wrong message in serious cases like rape", she said.
The court had made the observations while granting bail in the second sexual harassment case registered against him.
Chandran has been accused in two sexual harassment cases, one by a writer and belonging to a Scheduled Tribe community, alleging sexual harassment by him during a book exhibition here in April. The other was by a young writer, who accused him of sexual harassment during a book exhibition in town in February 2020.
The Koyilandy police had registered cases against Chandran, but had not been able to arrest him as he has been at large since the first case was registered. Chandran was granted anticipatory bail in the first case on August 2.