What is Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)?

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What is Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)? Blog Image

Overview:

The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh recently quashed the issuance of process by a trial court against a man for the commission of the offence under Section 354 of the IPC for allegedly slapping his wife in public.

About Section 354 of IPC

  • Section 354 of the IPC states that anyone who assaults or uses criminal force against a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty, or knowing that such an act is likely to outrage her modesty, can be punished with imprisonment ranging from one to five years and may also be fined.
  • It has been enacted with a view to protect a woman against indecent assault as well as to safeguard public morality and decent behaviour. 
  • This section punishes an assault or use of criminal force on any woman with the intention or knowledge that the woman’s modesty will be outraged.
  • The essential ingredients of the offense under Section 354 of the IPC are as follows:
    • that the person assaulted must be a woman
    • that the accused should have used some sort of criminal force on her
    • Criminal force must have been used to outrage her modesty
    • There must be an intention to do so. It is the section’s substance, where the choice of punishment and the legitimacy of the charges is evaluated.
  • What constitutes an ‘outrage to female modesty’ has not been defined anywhere under the IPC. It is rather subject to the facts and circumstances of each case. 
  • It does not encompass offences committed against men in the same manner. 
  • An offence under Section 354 of the IPC shall be a cognizable and a non-bailable offence that is triable by a magistrate of any class. 
  • The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013 introduced four additional subsections to Section 354 of IPC to broaden its scope. These are the following:
    • Section 354A: Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment
    • Section 354B: Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe
    • Section 354C: Voyeurism 
    • Section 354D: Stalking

Q1) What is the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013?

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was passed in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case wherein a female student was gang-raped in December 2012. The Act amended several provisions of the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and the Criminal Procedure Code. By way of this amendment, several new offenses have been recognized and incorporated into the Indian Penal Code, including acid attack (Section 326 A & B), voyeurism (Section 354C), stalking (Section 354D), attempt to disrobe a woman (Section 354B), sexual harassment (Section 354A), and sexual assault which causes death or injury causing a person to be in persistent vegetative state (Section 376A). The Act also amended the already existing offenses to make them more stringent.

Source: Husband slapping wife in public will not attract offence of outraging woman's modesty under Section 354 IPC: Jammu & Kashmir High Court