Saturday, June 15, 2024

Rajasthan High Court Redefines ‘Attempt to Rape’ and ‘Outraging Modesty’

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The Rajasthan High Court has drawn a clear distinction between the offenses of ‘attempt to rape’ and ‘outraging the modesty of a woman.’ The ruling arose from a case involving a six-year-old girl, where the accused removed her innerwear, undressed himself, but did not proceed further. The court’s decision has redefined the legal interpretation of these offenses, setting a precedent for future cases.

The Three Stages of ‘Attempt’

Justice Anoop Kumar Dhand, in his single-judge bench, emphasized the concept of ‘attempt’ and its three essential stages. First, the accused must harbor the intention to commit the offense. Second, the accused must perform acts directed towards the commission of that offense. Third, these acts must be reasonably proximate to the culmination of the crime. Any act falling short of crossing the preparation stage constitutes indecent assault under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

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Distinguishing ‘Attempt to Rape’ from ‘Outraging Modesty’

The court highlighted the critical difference between an attempt to commit rape and an attempt to commit indecent assault. For the former, the accused must have gone beyond the stage of preparation. The court clarified that the mere act of removing a victim’s innerwear and undressing oneself does not amount to an attempt to rape under Section 376 read with Section 511 of the IPC. However, it does constitute the offense of outraging the modesty of a woman, punishable under Section 354 of the IPC.

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Reliance on Precedents

To support its ruling, the court relied on two precedents. In the case of Sittu v. State of Rajasthan, where the accused forcibly undressed the victim and attempted to penetrate her despite resistance, the acts were deemed to have crossed the preparation stage, amounting to an attempt to commit rape. Conversely, in Damodar Behera v. State of Orissa, where the accused removed the victim’s saree but fled upon seeing others, the act was considered an indecent assault under Section 354 IPC, not an attempt to rape.

The Present Case

In the present case, the six-year-old prosecutrix alleged that the accused removed her innerwear, undressed himself, and fled the scene when she raised an alarm. However, there was no allegation of attempted penetration. Based on the established principles, the court modified the trial court’s conviction under Sections 376/511 (attempt to rape) to Section 354 (outraging modesty).

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Sentencing Considerations

Considering the accused was below 25 years of age at the time of the offense, the passage of over 33 years since the incident, and the relatively short jail term of 2.5 months already served, the court restricted the custodial sentence to the period already undergone. The court reasoned that sending the accused back to jail after such a long time for an offense under Section 354 IPC would not serve the ends of justice.

The Rajasthan High Court ‘s ruling has brought clarity to the interpretation of ‘attempt to rape’ and ‘outraging modesty,’ setting a precedent for future cases. By distinguishing between the two offenses and emphasizing the three stages of ‘attempt,’ the court has provided a framework for adjudicating such cases. This decision underscores the importance of a nuanced approach in addressing sensitive issues and ensuring justice for all parties involved.

 

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