The Kozhikode Sessions Court, while granting author and social activist Civic Chandran anticipatory bail in a sexual assault case, described the dress worn by the complainant on the day of the alleged incident as a "sexually provocative one".
The Court came to such a conclusion after verifying the photographs produced along with the bail application. Because of the dress she had on her, the Court ruled that "Section 354A will not prima facie stand against the accused".
Section 354A lists four acts that would make a person guilty of the offence of sexual harassment. One, physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures. Two, a demand or request for sexual favours. Three, showing pornography against the will of the woman. And four, making sexually coloured remarks.
The charge against Chandran is that he had forcefully pulled the complainant, a young publisher, to his lap and groped her during a poetry camp held at Nandi beach near Koyilandy in February this year. The Koyilandy police have registered a case against the accused for offences under Sections 354A(2), 341 and 354 of the Indian Penal Code.
The Sessions Court remarked that it was difficult to believe that a 74-year-old disabled man could forcefully do the things he had been accused of.
Chandran's lawyers argued that this was a case fabricated by the author's enemies. They had produced photographs showing that the complainant was with her boyfriend at the poetry camp. It was also pointed out that the place of occurrence was crowded and that no one had leveled such a complaint against Chandran till the complainant filed a case against him. The delay of six months in filing the case was also stressed.
The Sessions Court also said that it was a well settled principle in jurisprudence that when there is a long delay filing a sexual harassment complaint, the delay had to be properly explained.
The Kozhikode Sessions Court verdict that emphasises the manner of a victim's clothing is yet another addition to a slew of weird court judgements in India. Last year January, the Bombay High Court had exonerated a 39-year-old man alleged of molesting a minor girl saying he had touched her breasts over her clothes, suggesting that skin-to-skin contact was a necessary condition to qualify as child rape.
Expressing concern, Kerala Women's Commission Chairperson P Satheedevi termed the court's observation "unfortunate" and said by making such references even before the evidence is presented and the trial is held, the court had effectively dismissed the complainant's allegation. "This sends a very wrong message in serious cases like rape," she said.