The Kerala High Court on Thursday expunged remarks by a Kozhikode judge that the law about outraging a woman’s modesty does not apply if she was wearing a “sexually provocative dress”, Live Law reported.

Kozhikode Sessions Court judge S Krishna Kumar had made the observation while granting anticipatory bail to author Civic Chandran in a sexual harassment case. The High Court’s Justice Kauser Edappagath expunged the observation, but upheld the order granting anticipatory bail.

The High Court held that the attire of a woman could not be construed as a valid ground to absolve a person from allegations of molestation.

“The right to wear any dress is a natural extension of personal freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and a facet of the fundamental right under Article 21 [right to life and liberty] of the Constitution,” the High Court said. “Even if a woman wears a provocative dress that cannot give a licence to a man to outrage her modesty.”

Justice Edappagath, however, said that considering the facts and circumstances of the case and the age of the accused person, his custodial interrogation was not necessary. The court also took note of a statement by the director general of prosecution that the investigation was almost over in the matter.

The High Court held that Chandran had, on merits, made out a case for the granting of anticipatory bail. The court upheld the session court order and disposed of the matter.

The sessions court had passed the order granting bail to Chandran on August 12. Judge Kumar had said it was impossible to believe that the 74-year-old author, who is physically challenged, could forcefully pull the woman into his lap and “sexually press her breast”.

The Kerala government had moved the High Court against the order. In its petition, the state government had said that the court’s observation about the woman wearing a “provocative dress” was highly deplorable and could erode public trust in the judicial system.

In another order that granted anticipatory bail to Chandran on August 2 in a different sexual harassment case, judge Kumar had said it is “highly unbelievable that he will touch the body of the victim fully knowing that she is a member of Scheduled Caste”.

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

However, Kumar held that 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.