The Supreme Court has finally filled a gap in the Indian Penal Code. Since 1860, there was no concrete definition of ‘modesty’ in the Code even though outraging the modesty of a woman is an offence.
In Ram Kirpal v. Union of India, Jusitices Arijit Pasayat and SH Kapadia have sought to bring some clarity in Section 354 of the IPC. Section 354 deals with assault or criminal force to a woman with intent to outrage her modesty in circumstances in which the offender intends to so do or knows that it is likely that his actions will have the same result, but it does not define what constitutes a woman’s modesty.
According to the Court,
“the essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex” and that “the act of pulling a woman, removing her saree, coupled with a request for sexual intercourse… would be an outrage of the modesty of the woman; and the knowledge that modesty is likely to be outraged, is sufficient to constitute the offence.”
However, the aspect of intention is still present to constitute an offence. Like rape laws, feminists are campaigning to do away with that aspect too. In as much as mens rea is an important part of criminal law, if such is removed for heinous crimes, then where exactly does the law stand?