Kerala sessions court bail orders on sexual harassment case against Civic Chandran draw flak
Social media has been flooded with sharp reactions because of the bail orders with women activists being divided and lawyers stating that the premise of the bail was flawed
The observations of the Kozhikode sessions court had recently stoked a controversy with the comment that offence under Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code is not prima facie attracted when the woman was wearing 'sexually provocative dresses'. The Sessions Court made this comment while granting bail to activist and author Civic Chandran. The same court had also noted days earlier in another sexual harassment case involving the same man that he couldn’t have harassed a Dalit woman as he was fighting against the caste system. It has led to an outcry amongst activists and lawyers.
CV Kuttan or Civic Chandran as he is known was granted bail on August 12 by sessions court judge S Krishna Kumar, in the case where 30-year-old woman, who is also a writer, had complained that the author had tried to outrage her modesty in a camp convened at Nandi beach in February 2020. The Koyilandi police registered a case against the accused for offences under Sections 354A(2), 341 and 354 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 354A(2) deals with assault or use of criminal force to woman with the intent to disrobe her.
There are two cases against Civic Chandran. One is by a writer belonging to a Scheduled Tribe community, alleging sexual harassment by him during a book exhibition in April. The other was by a young writer, who accused him of sexual harassment during a book exhibition in town in February 2020. Chandran was granted anticipatory bail in the first case on August 2.
Social media has been flooded with sharp reactions because of the bail orders with women activists being divided and lawyers stating that the premise of the bail was flawed. The Opposition leaders have also criticised the comments of the Sessions Court judge.
The Kozhikode Sessions Court had observed that the photograph of the complainant, produced by the accused along with the bail application, pointed to the fact that the complainant was accompanied by her boyfriend to the place of occurrence and there were a number of people present at the time of the alleged incident and no one raised such a complaint against the accused. The judge had also concluded that the 74-year-old physically challenged man cannot forcefully “put the de facto complainant on his lap and press her breasts”
“He is fighting against the caste system and is involved in several agitations. It is not at all stated in the first information statement that the act of the accused was with the knowledge that the victim belonged to a member of SC. The copy of the SSLC book of the accused shows that he had refused to mention caste name in it. The accused is a reformist and is engaged in fighting against the caste system, writing for a casteless society. It is highly unbelievable that he will touch the body of the victim fully knowing she is of the Scheduled Caste,” stated the order.
Congress MLA and Opposition leader VD Satheesan said that the court’s remarks against the complainant woman in the sexual assault case were quite shocking and he asked if the judge was living in the 19th century.
Several law experts, who did not want to be named, stated the right to decide on what to wear and how to wear it is an extension of Article 21 of the Constitution, which states that no person would be deprived of his life or personal liberty.
However, a few others underscored that bail depends on the discretion of the judicial officer on the basis of legal principles and not based on social media outrage.