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Molestation and other crimes against women in India rarely carry stringent punishment - the accused get bail very easily.
All the sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 mentioned below are the ones under which (according to media reports) the Guwahati goons have been booked; all these sections of the IPC are bailable, that is, the accused have the right to be released on bail, and that the accused need not be forwarded to a court to seek bail, an officer in-charge of a police station can bail them out after seeking a personal bond and/or surety from them. Even some traffic violations are looked at more seriously by the law.
And I am amazed that almost no one has thought to look into the fact that it is so easy to molest a woman in this country and to get away with it- the law is completely in favor of the molesters (NCW, are you listening?). I have taken the Guwahati molestation as a test case.
Section 341 (Wrongful restraint)
Whoever wrongfully restrains any person shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term, which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.
Wrongfully restraining a person gets the offender a month in jail; wrongfully retraining an animal gets him three months (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, section 11 f)
Section 143 (Unlawful assembly)
Whoever is a member of an unlawful assembly shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six month, or with fine, or with both.
The blood-thirsty riotous mob that assaulted the hapless girl in Guwahati was not booked for rioting, which carries imprisonment for one year. Wasn’t this mob riotous? Section 146 of the Indian Penal Code defines rioting as “Whenever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly, or by any member thereof, in prosecution of the common object of such assembly, every member of such assembly is guilty of the offence of rioting.” This section could have been read with section 34, IPC (common intent) and 120B, IPC (criminal conspiracy).
Section 294 (Obscene act)
Obscene acts and songs.—Whoever, to the annoyance of others-
(a) does any obscene act in any public place, or
(b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place,
shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.
Well, a man can be obscene, nasty and insensitive to a woman in public, harass her, tease her, and be crude and crass, all he gets is three months in jail; but if someone is caught selling, renting out, circulating, etc. “a book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object…deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the pruri¬ent interest…” (note the tone of moral policing here), gets two years in jail for the first offence and five years for any subsequent offence (Indian Penal Code, section 292).
Section 323 (Voluntarily causing hurt)
Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 334, voluntarily causes hurt shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
There is an escape clause here in section 334. It says, “Whoever voluntarily causes hurt on grave and sudden provocation, if he neither intends nor knows himself to be likely to cause hurt to any person other than the person who gave the provocation, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.” All that the accused need to do is to malign the girl, shift the blame to her, prove, through a smart lawyer that they were provoked.
Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent 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.
If a man criminally assault a woman, he get jailed for two years; if he steals anything- could be a hundred rupees- he goes to jail for three years, and the offence of stealing is non-bailable. (Indian Penal Code, section 379; also if someone steals anything from a ‘dwelling house’, the jail term goes up to seven years- Indian Penal Code, section 380)
All the arrested Guwahati goons will be roaming free by now, all bailed out because the law says so.
I am a former bureaucrat, and have worked a lot on gender issues, disaster management and good governance. I am also the proud father of two lovely daughters. read more...
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