Written by Vidisha Mathur
The viral and controversial order of the Kozhikode Sessions Court in the case of State of Kerela v Civic Chandra, granting anticipatory bail to the activist Civic Chandran, which held that a “sexual harassment case would prima facie not stand if the victim was wearing a ‘sexually provocative dress’” has been challenged by the Kerala government in the Kerela High Court through an appeal.
Civic Chandra was charged with Section 354A(2) and 341 and 354 of the Indian Penal Code. The facts entailed that after a cultural camp, the complainant was resting near the shore, where the accused embraced her forcefully, asking her to sit on his lap and pressed her breast i.e., outraged her modesty.
Judge S. Krishna Kumar of the session court passed the order stating that to invoke section 354A, there must be unwelcomed sexually colored remarks, overtures, demands or requests, etc. He then went on to say that the photos show the complainant wearing a sexually provocative dress and hence, implying that her dress incited the other, ‘negating the unwelcome aspect’; hence Section 354A will not prima facie apply.
The state has filed an appeal through Additional Public Prosecutor, invoking article 21. The state contends that the order infringes the personal liberty and right to life of the survivor, stating that the consideration of dress, behavior, or past conduct and morals of the survivor is unjust and illegal as per the Supreme Court decision in Aparna Bhat and Others v State of Madhya Pradesh. The dressing of a victim being construed as a legal ground for absolving of sexual crime is insulting.
The appeal also points out that the accused has committed similar offenses before and hence, under section 438 of the CrPC not entitled to discretionary relief.
The session court’s observation that the 74-year-old man cannot physically for the complainant is unreasonable. And the statements made by the sessions court are deplorable and need to be rectified, submits the appeal.