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“Calling Unknown Woman ‘Darling’ Is Criminal Offence”: Calcutta HC

“Calling Unknown Woman 'Darling' Is Criminal Offence”: Calcutta HC

The Calcutta High Court has ruled that addressing an unknown woman as “darling” constitutes an offensive act and could be deemed a criminal offence under Sections 354A (outraging the modesty of a woman) and 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In a judgment delivered by single-judge Justice Jay Sengupta at the High Court’s Port Blair bench, the court upheld the conviction of Janak Ram for referring to a woman constable as “darling” while inebriated. The court emphasized that addressing an unknown woman in such a manner, regardless of the individual’s sobriety, is inherently offensive and constitutes a sexually coloured remark.

Justice Sengupta remarked that current societal standards in India do not condone the use of expressions like “darling” towards unsuspecting and unacquainted women. The court further noted that if the incident had occurred while the accused was sober, the gravity of the offence would likely have been greater.

Janak Ram’s interaction with the woman constable occurred when she was part of a police team tasked with maintaining law and order during Durga Puja. Upon receiving reports of a person causing trouble in the area, the police detained the individual while the woman constable and others remained at Webi Junction. At this juncture, Janak Ram addressed the constable with an offensive remark under a streetlight in front of a shop.

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The Mayabunder Police Station filed an FIR against Janak Ram under Sections 354A(1)(iv) and 509 of the IPC, leading to his conviction by a Judicial Magistrate, First Class. The Additional Sessions Judge, North & Middle Andaman, later upheld the conviction.

During the Calcutta High Court proceedings, sufficient evidence was presented to establish Janak Ram’s culpability in addressing the woman constable in an offensive manner. However, the court noted that Janak Ram did not escalate the offence beyond uttering the offensive word, leading to a reduction in his jail term from three months to one month.

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