A Kerala court has said that the Indian Penal Code Section 354 that criminalises outraging of a woman’s modesty is not applicable to a complainant if she was wearing a “sexually provocative dress”, Live Law reported on Wednesday.

The Kozhikode Sessions Court made the observation in the bail order of author Civic Chandran, who has been booked for harassing a woman on Nandy beach in February 2020, The Hindu reported. This was the second sexual harassment case filed against Chandran this year.

While granting him bail on August 12, the court said there was insufficient evidence to prove the charges against Chandran. There were many witnesses at the time when the alleged harassment took place on the crowded beach, but no one supported the complaint, the court added.

Chandran submitted the photos of the woman from her social media along with his bail application, based on which the court made the observation about the Indian Penal Code Section 354, Live Law reported.

“The photographs produced along with the bail application by the accused would reveal that the defacto complainant herself is exposing to dresses which are having some sexual provocative one,” the court said. “So Section 354A will not prima facie stand against the accused.”

The court also expressed shock that the 74-year-old author, who is physically disabled, could have made the complainant sit in his lap and fondle her breasts. There was no proof of physical sexual contact, advances and explicit sexual overtures that are required to attract Section 354, the court added.

The author’s intention to outrage the woman’s modesty was also absent, the court stated in its bail order.

‘Highly unbelievable that he will touch a Scheduled Caste member’

Chandran got anticipatory bail in the first case of alleged molestation on August 2.

In July, a Dalit woman writer had accused the author of allegedly attempting to molest her, The Hindu reported. Chandran was booked under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code as well as provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

However, Kozhikode Sessions Judge K Krishna Kumar said that in order for the Atrocities Act to be applicable, the accused person would have to know that the woman belonged to a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe.

The court said that offences under the Atrocities Act prima facie would not prima facie stand against Chandran as it “is highly unbelievable that he will touch the body of the victim fully knowing that she is member of Scheduled Caste”.

The judge also said that considering the author’s age and health condition, it could not be believed that he kissed the woman’s back without her consent. It also referred to photographs that purportedly showed that Chandran and the Dalit woman writer were on “cordial terms”, and said that there was a dispute between them about the publication of a literary piece written by the woman.

Judge Krishna Kumar said that the case appeared to be an attempt to tarnish Chandran’s reputation.