A Thane resident, who worked as an IT manager at a security company, was found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison for “indecency of a woman”.
The woman, who worked as a bouncer at ‘Top Security Limited’, alleged that her salary had been on hold since July 2019. But in February 2020, the company fired her without notice.
The company also allegedly failed to pay salaries to several other employees.
Taking action against the company, the woman, along with other colleagues, frequently went to the office to demand wages.
On November 2, 2020, the regional head of the company called a meeting of employees to deal with the issue of the pending salary.
At around 11 a.m., the woman went to the company office with a few of her colleagues and sat down in the staff room. Around 1:15 p.m., the IT manager calls him to his cabin. She said she didn’t know him.
The woman entered the manager’s cabin and started talking to him about the salary issue. He then asked her in Marathi if she really needed the money. The director also allegedly grabbed her left hand and approached her.
The woman slapped the manager after he tried to touch her, then immediately left the cabin.
She told the incident to her colleagues and later went to a police station to file a police report.
Sahar Police Station in Mumbai registered the case under Section 354 (criminal assault or violence against a woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code and the accused was arrested.
In the statement recorded by the police and also in court, the woman’s colleagues said she walked out of the IT manager’s cabin crying.
The defendant’s attorney, Attorney AK Tiwari, alleged that since the woman’s salary was pending with the company and due to personal grudges, the woman filed a false complaint against the defendant.
However, the woman told the court that the two issues were different and that she did not know the defendant at all.
Magistrate Andheri, HRH Sayed, observed that “the defense could not adduce anything on the record to show why the informant would wrongly implicate the defendant when they did not know each other, at the relevant time”.
“The woman’s testimony in this case was corroborated in material detail by circumstantial evidence. There is nothing in the record to disbelieve her version,” the court said.
“The defense was unable to shake her reliability. She steadfastly withstood the test of cross-examination. Her testimony is consistent, credible and persuasive throughout. Her testimony inspires the confidence of this court. Therefore , you have to trust it,” he added. said the court.
The magistrate also saw that there was celerity in the filing of the FIR by the woman. The court said that although the incident took place in a cabin, statements from other witnesses support the woman’s complaint.
Thus, the court said: “In such a set of facts and circumstances, the insistence on the presence of an eyewitness has no force.”
“It must be considered that sexual offences/offences against women are always committed in secluded places or between four walls,” the court said.
“Therefore, corroboration of the woman’s testimony is not warranted at all. It is the quality of the evidence that matters, not the quantity,” the court said.
“Considering Indian society, no woman would put her reputation at stake by filing a fake FIR. Therefore, there is no reason to disregard the woman’s version.”
The court said that “the prosecution had proved their case and that the act of the accused of holding her hand, removing her hand from her shoulder and back and asking her ‘tula kharach paishanchi garaj ahe ka ?’ [Do you really need the money?] is in itself an intentional act on the part of the accused”.
Reacting to this, Attorney Tiwari said that he (the defendant) is not a history leaf and he has responsibility for his family. “Therefore, the lenient view may be taken against him”.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prosecutor A Shah argued that the offense was committed against a woman and therefore a maximum sentence should be imposed.
After weighing the arguments, the court noted that “the defendant convicted under Article 354 of the ICC cannot be released with a suspended sentence. In view of the act of indecent exposure of the victim, this would encourage not only a further escalation in crime, but would also jeopardize the modesty of many other innocent women.”
“Such an act of indecent exposure of a woman does not warrant any benefit under the provisions of the Offenders’ Probation Act,” the court said.
In this regard, Magistrate Sayed said: “Conviction of any offense has a social purpose. The sentence must be pronounced [with] having regard… to the nature of the offense and the manner in which the offense was committed.”
“The accused must realize that the offense he committed not only treated as a breach in the life of the victim, but also gave a message to society and to like-minded offenders. Considering the arguments advanced on behalf of the defendant with respect to his background and the circumstances in which the offense was committed,” the court said.