Calling unknown woman ‘darling’ is sexual harassment: Calcutta High Court

Calcutta High Court declares calling an unknown woman 'darling' as sexual harassment under Indian Penal Code. Read about the recent ruling and the conviction of Janak Ram for addressing a female constable in an inebriated state.
Calling unknown woman ‘darling’ is sexual harassment: Calcutta High Court
Anjali Raj / Jaano Junction

The Calcutta High Court has ruled that labelling an unfamiliar woman as "darling" is deemed offensive and qualifies as a criminal offence under Sections 354A (outraging modesty of a woman) and 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Justice Jay Sengupta, the single judge at the High Court's Port Blair bench, emphasised this stance while affirming the conviction of Janak Ram, who had addressed a female constable as "darling" in an inebriated state. 

As per reports, Janak Ram, in an inebriated state, had asked a lady police officer (complainant) “kya darling, challan karne aayi hai kya?” (Hey darling, have you come to impose a fine?)".   

"Addressing an unknown lady, whether a police constable or not, on the street by a man, drunken or not, with the word 'darling' is patently offensive, and the word used is essentially a sexually coloured remark," the bench held. 

The Court noted that the accused had claimed that there was no proof that the man was drunk.

"If this was done in a sobre state, the gravity of the offence would perhaps be even more," the Court said in response to the argument. 

According to the prosecution's case, a police team comprising the victim police constable and other police personnel were proceeding to Lall Tikrey for maintaining law and order on the eve of Durga Puja. When they reached the Webi junction, they received information that one person was creating a nuisance in the area. The police party reached the place, apprehended the miscreant and took him Police Station while the rest of the police party, including the victim, stayed back at the junction. As the place was dark, they decided to go under the street light in front of a shop. When they reached the street light, the accused-appellant, who was standing in front of the shop, asked the complainant victim the sexually coloured question, “Kya darling challan karne aai hay kya?”

An FIR was filed by the Mayabunder Police Station, invoking Sections 354A(1)(iv) and 509 of the IPC, in connection with the incident.

Last year, the Judicial Magistrate, First Class at North and Middle Andaman, Mayabunder, found Janak Ram guilty under these sections, resulting in a three-month jail term and a fine of Rs 500 for each offence.

Despite Janak Ram's appeal being dismissed by the Additional Sessions Judge, North & Middle Andaman, in November 2023, he subsequently filed a petition before the Calcutta High Court. 

In the proceedings, the bench headed by Justice Sengupta acknowledged substantial evidence supporting the claim that Janak Ram had addressed the woman constable as alleged.

Nevertheless, the High Court pointed out that Janak Ram did not escalate the offence, limiting his actions to uttering the offensive word only. As a result, the High Court opted to reduce the initial three-month jail term handed down by the lower court to one-month imprisonment.

Stay connected to Jaano Junction on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Koo. Listen to our Podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Jaano Junction