Calcutta High Court: Calling an unknown woman ‘darling’ is sexual harassment

Calcutta High Court

Calcutta: The Calcutta High Court has ruled that calling an unknown woman ‘darling’ amounts to sexual harassment and can attract punishment under section 354A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The court also said that the state of intoxication or any other condition of the accused does not justify such an act.

The judgment was delivered by Justice Jai Sengupta, who presides over the Port Blair bench of the High Court while dismissing the appeal of Janak Ram, who was convicted of sexually harassing a female police officer.

The case

The incident took place on February 14, 2020, when the female officer was on duty at a traffic signal in Port Blair. She noticed that Janak Ram was driving a scooter in a rash and negligent manner and stopped him for challenge. She found that he was drunk and asked him to produce his driving license and other documents.

However, instead of complying, Janak Ram said to her, “Have you come to challan darling?” He also tried to touch her hand and resisted when she tried to take him to the police station. He was arrested and charged under section 354A of the IPC, which deals with making sexually colored remarks, among other forms of sexual harassment.

The verdict

The trial court found Janak Ram guilty and sentenced him to one year of imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 10,000. He appealed against the conviction and sentence in the High Court, claiming that he was not drunk and that he did not intend to harass the officer.

However, Justice Sengupta rejected his arguments and upheld the trial court’s decision. He said that Janak Ram’s remark was clearly a sexual comment and violated the dignity and modesty of the officer. He also said that it did not matter whether he was drunk or not, as his act was offensive and unacceptable in any circumstance.

Calcutta High Court

He further said that calling an unknown woman ‘darling’ on the street was not permissible in our society, regardless of her profession or status. He said that such a behavior amounted to outraging the modesty of a woman and deserved to be punished under section 354A of the IPC, which carries a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment fine, or both.