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Sexual integrity of every person to be respected,' Delhi High Court upholds conviction for voyeurism [Read Judgment]

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      11 April, 2023 09:00 PM      0 Comments
Sexual integrity of every person to be respected,' Delhi High Court upholds conviction for voyeurism [Read Judgment]

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has said the sexual integrity of every person has to be respected and any violation of it should be dealt with a stern hand.

A bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma confirmed the conviction and sentence of Sonu alias Billa for peeping into a temporary bathroom used by the victim here.

"The objective behind introducing the present offence was to curb sexual crime against women and to protect their privacy and sexual integrity. The law has to ensure that all citizens are able to enjoy a peaceful life with peace of mind having assurance that their privacy is respected and such kind of trespass and mischief will attract the criminality of voyeuristic behavior of the perpetrator of the crime," the court said.

In his arguments, the counsel for the convict contended since the bathroom was situated in the common area, he could not have been convicted for voyeurism as he was merely standing outside his house which was his right.

He also argued that in the present case, the bathroom used by the victim being situated at a common public place cannot be termed as a ‘private area’ but a ‘public place’ and thus the act of bathing at such ‘public place’ cannot be held to be a ‘private act’.

"If this court holds to the contrary, in that case, several thousands of persons can be prosecuted merely for their presence at public places such as water parks, swimming pools, lakes, ponds or even while taking bath in rivers at religious places," he claimed.

"The argument that the act of taking bath cannot be considered a ‘private act’ as it was being done in a public place is not only meritless but also absurd," the bench said, adding taking bath in a bathroom by any person, whether a male or a female, is essentially a ‘private act’ as it is taking place inside the four walls of the bathroom.

"Taking holy dip at the religious places cannot be equated with the closed bathroom where a female is taking bath. However, even in that case, there will be ‘reasonable expectation’ that photographs or videos of such women, even while taking bath at such public places are not taken or videos created. Even in those cases, it will amount to invading her privacy," the bench said.

"No person has a right, even in that situation, to take her photographs, videos etc as envisaged under Section 354C of IPC and the Explanation thereto," the bench added.

To sum up, the acts of the appellant in the present case were not merely trivial and ill-mannered behavior, but also amounted to breach of privacy of the victim and would attract the criminality as envisaged under Section 354C of IPC, the bench said.

"The social context of crimes cannot be lost sight of by the courts. The courts need to remain alive to the social realities in such cases where the victim due to her poverty did not have luxury of having a bathroom inside her house, but had a make shift bathroom outside her own house. The act of the appellant peeping inside the bathroom which unfortunately, only had a curtain on the entrance of the bathroom instead of a door, would certainly attract the criminality under Section 354C of IPC. Needless to say, such an act would certainly put a woman under embarrassment and constant fear of being observed while she takes bath even behind the four walls of a make shift bathroom," the bench said.

The court declared that there are no reasons to interfere with impugned judgment and order on sentence passed by the learned Trial Court as far as conviction under Section 354C of IPC is concerned.

In the instant case, the court, however, said the conviction of the appellant under the POCSO cannot be sustained as it could not be proved that the victim was less than 18 years of age.

[Read Judgment] 

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