by Shruti Prakash Pandav


The word modesty has not been defined straightforward in the code. There are though dictionary meanings of modesty but Supreme Court has also defined this term in different cases interpreting the words from case to case. In one of the case Supreme Court defined modesty as the essence of woman’s modesty is her sex. The culpable intention of the accused is the crux of the matter. The reaction of women is very relevant but its absence is not always decisive. Modesty is an attribute associated with ultimate test for ascertaining whether the modesty of a women has been outraged, assaulted or insulted is that the action of the offender should be such that it may be perceived as one which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of a women.[1] As dealing with the substantive question in the case of State of Punjab v Major Singh that - Whether modesty of a female child of seven and half months can also be outraged. The majority view was in the affirmative. The court was of the opinion that Young or old, intelligent or imbecile, awake or sleeping, the women possess a modesty capable of being outraged. In one the other case Supreme Court said the women may be an idiot, she may be under the spell of anesthesia, she may be sleeping, she may be unable to appreciate the significance of the; nevertheless, the offender is punishable for outraging the modesty.[2]

In State of Kerala V. Hamsu,[3] court held that the accused who beckoned the prosecution by winking his eyes in public and caught hold of her arm was guilty of outraging her modesty and can punished accordingly. Even gestures when they are made with the intention of outraging the modesty of a woman attract the section 354 of the IPC.

In Jagmal Singh V. State[4] the court held that since the intention of the offender could not be proved it was held that the appellant was wrongly convicted, so on appeal the conviction was set aside unless the culpable intention is proved, mere touching the belly of a woman in a public bus cannot be called a deliberate act of outraging the modesty of a woman within the meaning of this section. In Ram Das V. State of West Bengal[5] court said touching the belly of a girl is not culpable if it is not intentional merely putting the hand on the belly of girl cannot be construed to indicate that the accused was using criminal force for the purpose of committing this offence or causing injury or annoyance. It may be an attempt to draw the attention of the girl.

The court further said though the assault was there but the intention to outrage the modesty could not be proved. The High Court upheld the acquittal while agreeing that the conduct of the accused was reprehensible as he had tried to chase the girl. So far as the offence under section 354 IPC was concerned the allegations are not sufficient to fulfill the necessary ingredient.


Section 10 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 gives a clear definition of women - A female human being of any age.

So irrespective of age the woman’s modesty can be concluded as outraged if the acts falls within the arena of interpretation of the honourable apex court.

Section 354, IPC,1860

Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.—Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, [shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.][6]

*The offence is cognizable, non-bailable, triable by any Magistrate. Essential ingredients of Section 354, IPC:

1. Assaulted person must be women.

2. Accused must have used criminal force.

3. The criminal force must have been used with the intention of outraging woman’s modesty.

4. Knowledge that modesty is likely to be outraged, is sufficient to constitute the offence without any deliberate intention of having such outrage alone for its object.[7]

1. Assaulted person must be a woman

The starting word of this section[8] ‘Whoever’ makes this section a gender neutral section. This section is not gender specific, and the offender can be both male and female. The essential ingredient of this offence is an insult to the modesty of a woman. In other words, the facts and circumstance have to be considered in order to conclude whether the act caused the outrage of modesty or not.

But the question again lies if this section has been so gender neutral then how the section has been used us a pseudo weapon against men? Well, the answer lies there itself in the section. The starting word of sections 354A, 354B, 354C specifically mentions repeatedly the word ‘Any man’ which undoubtedly makes this section a gender biased section.

2. Accused must have used criminal force.

In general terms or layman terms ‘molestation’ is the word basically used for section 354. When the acts of the accused causes insult to the modesty of a woman and there is threat of physical harm to her which also shocks the sense of modesty, the person can be accused under section 354.[9] The primary objective of provision of Section 354 of IPC is to safeguard public morality and decent behaviour. In SurenderNath v. State of Madhya Pradesh[10]court held that pushing the bell bottom pant or Chadar down that what is normally is an indecent behaviour. By differentiating Insult to modesty and outraging the modesty the court in Bankey v. state of U.P[11], it was held by the court that he had intruded upon her privacy and was convicted for outraging the modesty of women. The essential element of the offence under section 354 is the element of criminal force or assault.

3. Use of criminal force and mere knowledge of the act that modesty can be outraged

The provision of section 354 IPC has been enacted to safeguard public morality and decent behaviour. Therefore if any person uses criminal force upon any woman with the intention or knowledge that the woman’s modesty can be outraged, he is to be punished. In Vishaka v State of Rajasthan[12], and Apparel Export Promotion Council v AK Chopra[13] the apex court held that offence related to modesty of women cannot be treated as trivial. Intention is not the sole criterion of the offence punishable under this section. It can be committed by a person assaulting or using criminal force to any woman, if he knows that by such act the modesty of the women is likely to be affected. Neither the use of criminal force alone nor act of outraging the modesty alone is sufficient to attract an offence under section 354 IPC, 1860.[14]


In one of the case SC has interpreted as the word modesty is an attribute associated with female human being which reflects a particular class. It is a virtue which is attached to a female on account of her sex. The word ‘modesty’ is not to be interpreted with reference to a particular victim of an act but rather it is to be interpreted as an attribute associated with female human beings of a class. Section 354 talks about use of criminal force and assault to women with the intention of outraging the modesty of women.

[1] State of Punjab v Major Singh, AIR 1967 SC 63 , Rupan Deol Bajaj v KPS Gill, AIR 1995 SCC 194 [2] Sanjay Das v The State of MP, 2011 CrLJ 2095 (Chh) [3] State of Kerala V. Hamsu 1988 (2) Crimes 161 [4] 1980 Cr L.J 9 (Raj.) 446 [5] AIR 1954 SC 711 [6] Subs. by Act 13 of 2013, section 6, for shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two , or with fine , or with both (w.r.e.f. 3 February 2013) [7] Aman Kumar v State of Haryana, AIR 2004 SC 1497 : (2004) 4 SCC 379 [8] Section 354, Indian Penal Court, 1860 [9] Justice KT Thomas, MA Rashid, ‘Ratanlal and Dhirajlal The Indian Penal Code’,,34th edition, Lexis Nexis. 810. [10] Surender Nath v. State of Madhya Pradesh 1982 Cr LJ (M.P. HC Notes), 10(2) [11] Bankey vs State of UP, AIR 1961 All 131, 1961 CriLJ 330 [12] AIR 1997 SC 3011 [13] AIR 1999 SC 625 [14] Gigi v State, 2013 Cr LJ (NOC) 228