Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (Section 509 of IPC)

Ingredients of Section 509 of the Code are:

1. Intention to insult the modesty of a woman,

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2. The insult—

i) Must be caused by uttering any word or making any sound

or gesture or exhibiting any object intending that such word or sound shall be heard or that gesture or object shall be seen by such woman; or

ii) Must be caused by intruding upon the privacy of such woman.

In Emperor Tarak v. Das Gupta VR [AIR 1926 Bom 159], the accused was a graduate of a university and wrote a letter to an English nurse containing indecent proposals and sent it to her in an envelope. It was held that the accused had outraged her modesty under Section 509 IPC.

For the offence under Section 509, it is sufficient if the intention can be gathered from the evidence. The exact words need not be proved.

If the same words are used at different places in the same enactment, same meaning has to be given to them unless the context indicates otherwise.

If the dictionary meaning of the word ‘modesty’ is adhered to while interpreting Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code, the result will be that making an indecent gesture or exhibition of a male organ or some lewd object to a child who has not attained sufficient maturity of thought or understanding would constitute no offence, whereas similar acts when committed in the presence of a woman of higher age would be an offence.

This could not have been the intention of Legislature in enacting Section 509 of the Code. The object of this provision seems to have been to protect women against indecent behaviour of others which is offensive to morality.

In J. Jaishankar v. Government of India [(1996) 6 SCC 204], the Supreme Court held that the conviction of the offender under Section 509, IPC involved moral turpitude. Even if the fine amount was below Rs. 2,000/-; that, by itself, was not sufficient to hold that the dismissal of the accused person was improper. Hence, his dismissal from service for the offence was held to be proper.

Offence under Section 509 of I.PC., is cognizalbe, bailable and is triable by any Magistrate.

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