16 years after he molested woman, convict sent to jail

Mumbai: Sixteen years after he was convicted for outraging the modesty of a tribal woman, the Bombay High Court directed that a Yavatmal-based man’s bail bond be cancelled and he serve the sentence.

On September 5, 2001 on a busy lane in Yavatmal, the convict, identified only as Naushad, had accosted the victim from behind and molested her when she was on her way back from the market with her friend. He also threatened to kill her if she raised an alarm. At the time, Naushad was aged 23.

On November 28, 2005, an ad-hoc Additional Sessions Judge at Amravati convicted him under IPC sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation). He was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for six months, but obtained bail. The court also acquitted him under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. In 2006, Naushad appealed in the HC seeking leniency in his sentencing.

Though Justice Rohit Deo was informed that the friend accompanying the victim has not supported the prosecution’s stand, he said, “The omissions brought to my attention are not significant and material and pertain to collateral and peripheral facts and circumstances. The credibility of the testimony of the victim is not dented by the omissions to which my attention is invited by the learned counsel for the accused.”

The court took on record that the testimony of the complainant is broadly consistent with the FIR, and said the evidence of the complainant has withstood cross-examination. The Bench noted, “I find her testimony implicitly reliable and confidence inspiring. The prosecution has proved the offence punishable under IPC section 354 beyond reasonable doubt.” It said Naushad’s plea for leniency is rejected as the act of accosting and molesting the victim is “reprehensible”.

Justice Deo said, “To my mind, the sessions court judge has been extremely lenient in sentencing the accused to only six months rigorous imprisonment.” The court directed that Naushad’s bail bond be cancelled and he be taken into custody to serve the sentence. The order said, “Any reduction of the sentence would erode public confidence in the justice dispensation system.”

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