- Kerala sessions court stirred controversy after a verdict it had passed in sexual harassment case
- “it is unbelievable that he will touch body of the victim fully knowing that she was SC": Court
A Kerala sessions court found itself in a controversy on Thursday after a verdict it had passed in a sexual harassment case. Just a day ago on Wednesday, the same court had observed that an offence under sexual harassment is not prima facie attracted when the woman was wearing a "sexually provocative dress".
This time, the court was hearing a case of the same, a 74-year-old social activist and writer Civic Chandran, who was charged with two sexual harassment cases, one by a writer and one belonging to a Scheduled Tribe community, alleging sexual harassment by him during a book exhibition here in April. He was given bail by the same court earlier on August 2.
While granting anticipatory bail to the activist on the new charges, the court said that “it is highly unbelievable that he will touch the body of the victim fully knowing that she is a member of Scheduled Caste”.
In an order dated August 2, the sessions judge granted bail to 74-year-old social activist and writer Civic Chandran in a case under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (SC/ST Act) by saying that offences under this statute would not prima facie stand against him as he was fighting against the caste system.
The judgement was passed by the same judge who had noted on August 12 and granted bail to the same accused in a sexual abuse case, observing that the offence under sexual harassment is not prima facie attracted when the woman was wearing a "sexually provocative dress".
'Woman's dress was sexually provocative': Same judge, same case, same court's verdict
On August 12, the Kozhikode Sessions Court had observed that the photograph of the complainant, produced by the accused along with the bail application, would explain that she "herself is exposing to dresses which are having some sexual provocative one" and it is impossible to believe that a man aged 74 and physically disabled can forcefully put the complainant on his lap and sexually press her breast."
"The photographs produced along with the bail application by the accused would reveal that the de facto complainant herself is exposing to dresses which are having some sexual provocative one. So Section 354A will not prima facie stand against the accused.
"Even admitting that there was a physical contact, it is impossible to believe that a man aged 74 and physically disabled can forcefully put the defacto complainant in his lap and sexually press her breast," the court had observed and granted bail to the accused saying it was a "fit case wherein the accused can be granted bail."
Harsh criticism against the verdict
Criticism against the August 12 order continued to pour in from the state and various parts of the country with National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma and senior CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat strongly condemning the sessions court judge's observation.
"The observations of the Kozhikode sessions court regarding a complainant's clothes, while granting bail in a sexual harassment case are extremely unfortunate and @ncwIndia strongly condemns it. The court has overlooked the far reaching consequences of such an order," Sharma tweeted.
Karat, speaking to mediapersons in Delhi, said, "The higher judiciary should take note of the comment and observations (by the Kerala sessions court) and take the requisite action.
"Will the higher judiciary take any measures to restore the confidence of women, who are victims of sexual abuse, in the courts."
Kerala Women and Child Development Minister Veena George also criticised the sessions judge's order by terming it as "unfortunate".
Speaking to the media, she said that such orders and observations could lead to the public losing their trust or faith in the judiciary which should not happen.
The order is also anti-women, she said and added that "we should move forwards and not backwards".
Another senior woman CPI(M) leader and Politburo member, Subhashini Ali, too appeared to hold a similar view when she told the media in Delhi that such orders, judgements and comments "only increase the insecurity of women in our society and also increase the violence they are facing".