State of Punjab v Major Singh AIR 1967 SC 63

CaseState of Punjab v Major Singh, AIR 1967 SC 63
CourtBefore the Supreme Court of India
BenchChief Justice AK Sarkar, Justice JR Mudholkar, RS Bachawat.
Author of the judgement: Chief Justice AK Sarkar, Justice Mudholkar (Concurring)
Decided on28 April 1966
Advocate for the appellantDipak Dutt Chaudhuri and R. N. Sachthey
Advocate for the respondentA. S. R. Chari
AbstractIn the present case, criminal force was applied on a child of tender age and the accused was held not guilty by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The reasoning of the High Court was that the victim was of tender age and thus her modesty could not be outraged. The Supreme Court did not accept this view and held that the modesty of the women is not subject to victim but is intended to secure the decency and morals as understood by a reasonable man.
Author of the briefAditya Gor
KeywordsCriminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Indian Penal Code, Modesty, Decency and Morals, Criminal Force

Brief facts and procedural history:

According to the factual matrix, one Major Singh was accused of interfering with the vagina of seven and half month old child and deemed to outrage her modesty.

The present case is an appeal from the judgement and order dated May 31, 1963 of the Punjab High Court. In the High Court, the matter was heard by three learned Judges, two of whom did not held the person guilty while the third judged was of the opinion that the person is guilty. Hence this appeal is preferred by the State.

Issue:

  • Whether the respondent who caused injury to the private parts of a female child of seven and half months is guilty under 354 of the Indian Penal Code of the offence of outraging the modesty of a woman?

Argument of the accused:

  • The section occurred in a chapter of the Indian Penal Code dealing with offences affecting human body and not in the chapter dealing with offences relating to decency and morals.

Ratio:

  • The difficulty in this case was caused by the words “outrage her modesty”. The majority of the learned Judges in the High Court held that these words showed that there must be a subjective element so far as the woman against whom criminal force was used is concerned. They appear to have taken the view that the offence could be said to have been committed only when the woman felt that her modesty had been outraged. According to them, the test of outrage of modesty was the reaction of the woman concerned.
  • According to the third learned Judge of the High Court who answered the question in the affirmative was of the view that the word “modesty” meant, accepted notions of womanly modesty and not the notions of the woman against whom the offence was committed. He observed that the section was intended as much in the interest of the woman concerned as in the interest of public morality and decent behavior.
  • The Chief justice of the Supreme Court also observed that the offence does not depend on the reaction of the woman subjected to the assault or use of criminal force. This intention or knowledge is the ingredient of the offence and not the woman’s feelings.
  • It would follow that if the intention or knowledge was not proved, proof of the fact that the woman felt that her modesty had been outraged would not satisfy the necessary ingredient of the offence. Likewise, if the intention or knowledge was proved, the fact that the woman did not feel that her modesty had been outraged would be irrelevant, for the necessary ingredient would then have been proved. The sense of modesty in all women is of course not the same; it varies from woman to woman. In many cases, the woman’s sense of modesty would not be known to others. If the test of the offence was the reaction of the woman, then it would have to be proved that the offender knew the standard of the modesty of the woman concerned, as otherwise, it could not be proved that he had intended to outrage “her” modesty or knew it to be likely that his act would have that effect. This would be impossible to prove in the large majority of cases. Hence, the reaction of the woman would be irrelevant.
  • Intention and knowledge are of course states of mind. They are nonetheless facts which can be proved. They cannot be proved by direct evidence. They have to be inferred from the circumstances of each case. Such an inference, one way or the other, can only be made if a reasonable man would, on the facts of the case, make it. The question in each case must be: will a reasonable man think that the act was done with the intention of outraging the modesty of the woman or with the knowledge that it was likely to do so? The test of the outrage of modesty must, therefore, be whether a reasonable man will think that the act of the offender was intended to or was known to be likely to outrage the modesty of the woman.
  • Justice Mudholkar also accepted the view taken by the chief justice in his concurring judgement.

Held:

The majority judgement allowed the appeal and the conviction of the respondent was altered to one under section 354 of IPC, and he was awarded rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years and a fine of Rupees 1000/-. Out of the fine, if realized, Rupees 500/- shall be paid as compensation to the child.

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