Calling an unknown woman ‘darling’ constitutes sexual harassment under Section 354A IPC: Calcutta High Court

Calling an unknown woman 'darling' constitutes sexual harassment under Section 354A IPC: Calcutta High Court

Calling an unknown woman 'darling' constitutes sexual harassment under Section 354A IPC: Calcutta High Court

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In a landmark ruling, the Calcutta High Court has affirmed that addressing an unknown woman as “darling” constitutes sexual harassment and falls under criminal offences as per Sections 354A (outraging modesty of a woman) and 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The decision came in the case of Janak Ram, whose conviction for using the term “darling” towards a woman constable while intoxicated was upheld.

Justice Jay Sengupta, sitting at the High Court’s Port Blair bench, emphasized that Section 354A targets sexually coloured remarks, and using such language towards an unknown woman on the street, regardless of the individual’s sobriety, is patently offensive. The court stated that current Indian societal standards do not permit men to casually use expressions like “darling” in reference to unsuspecting and unacquainted women.

Janak Ram’s interaction with the woman constable involved asking, “kya darling, challan karne aayi hai kya? (Hi, darling, have you come to impose a fine?).” The incident occurred while a police team was maintaining law and order on the eve of Durga Puja, and Janak Ram was creating trouble in the area.

The Judicial Magistrate had initially convicted Janak Ram, leading to a three-month jail term and a fine of Rs 500 for each offence. While the Calcutta High Court upheld the conviction, it reduced the jail term to one month, noting that Janak Ram had not aggravated the offence beyond uttering the offensive word. The ruling sets a precedent for considering such language as criminal and reinforces the importance of respecting a woman’s modesty in public spaces.

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