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Eve teasing maybe perceived as a 'joke or a prank', but it is also recognized as a criminal offence. Aarti Mundkur, Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore, answers our questions on what one can do towards taking legal action when 'eve teased'.
1. All about FIRs and procedure to lodge one.
An FIR (FIRST INFORMATION REPORT) is the complaint that a person lodges at a police station, reporting the incident that is alleged to have occurred. It is the first information that the police receive regarding the commission of a Cognizable Offence, hence First Information Report.
An FIR can only be lodged at a police station. At every police station there is an officer designated as an SHO (Station House Officer) whose job it is to lodge FIRs. Usually, FIRs are lodged at the police station in whose jurisdiction (geographical area that comes under the purview of that police station) the offence has occurred.
It is preferable to lodge the FIR in the jurisdictional police station. If that is not possible, you will have state why, and the police will forward the the FIR to the concerned police station for investigation.
An FIR may be given in writing or orally. Your complaint in writing is reduced to the basic facts and put into a standard format of the FIR. You are entitled to read it make changes etc and also get a copy for yourself FREE OF COST. If you orally lodge a complaint, which the police officer writes down, please read it and make sure that it is accurate.
You have the right to lodge an FIR, irrespective of the circumstances that surround the particular incident. Clothes you are wearing or being out late cannot be reasons given to you for not lodging an FIR. In the event that the officer does not lodge your FIR, you can ask the Inspector of the police station to do so. If that fails, get in touch with the Circle Inspector. Finally, the office of the Commissioner of Police can also lodge an FIR and forward it to the concerned police station. So, in the event that the SHO refuses to lodge your FIR you can work your your way up the hierarchy, and ensure that it is.
It is not necessary that you should name the person you are accusing. It is very common to not know who the person is. If possible try and get a name or a good description. An FIR can be lodged against anyone, including public servants.
Procedure to lodge an FIR.
An FIR should have the following details-
1) a detailed description of the incident- date, time, place included.
2) If you know the accused- then his name and address. If not, as close a description as possible.
3) You must also put down exactly what happened. E.g. If you were felt up- how and where.
2. Do I have to report the incident only to another male officer?
there are all women's police stations that one can complain at. There is one close to the Corporation (Ph: 22290228/ 222 16242) However it is not mandatory for all police stations to have women officers.
3. How long does the whole procedure take? What am I getting involved in by lodging an FIR or reporting the 'eve teaser'?
Lodging of an FIR does not take very long, maybe a few hours, at the most. By lodging one, you are putting the criminal justice mechanism into motion That is, you are asking the police to begin investigating the incident that you have reported. It is then the job of the police to investigate, arrest, take down statements etc. You may be called by the police to identify the person/s they have arrested. The police then have to file what is called a chargesheet and then the case goes to trial before a judge, where you will be the primary witness, along with others, if there are any. It is difficult to say exactly how long this whole process takes. But one can safely say that it will be at least a few months- 4 or more, for the case to actually go to trail before a judge.
4. I think I was eve teased. This guy just looked at me in a way that made me feel sick. How can I take any action against it? I don't even know who he is. What constitutes as sexual harassment in the streets? What according to the law can be seen as 'eve teasing' or street sexual harassment? Is it looking, staring, and groping, stalking? What can police do to the perpetrator/ eve teaser? How is he punishable?
Section 354 of the IPC- requires that there be assault or criminal force used intending to outrage the modesty of a woman or knowing that it will outrage her modesty. A person found guilty can be imprisoned for a maximum period of 2 years, or with a fine, or both. So, under this section a 'look' may not be enough to constitute an offence. For more details look at Section 96 of the Karnataka Police Act.
Section 509 of the IPC is broader in its purview. It includes words, gestures, sounds or exhibition of objects with a view to insult the modesty of a woman. It also includes the words “intrudes upon the privacy of a woman”. The offence is punishable with a maximum imprisonment for one year, or a fine, or both.
In the case of both these provisions, it is difficult to say what exactly constitutes an offence. Courts have held that whistling, passing comments about a woman's body, singing songs etc, come under S.509. In any case, a 'look' that makes you uncomfortable may be very difficult to establish as an act that outrages your modesty.
Groping and stalking are definitely acts that come under the purview of both sections.
What is important is that neither section uses the explicit words eve teasing or sexual harassment. Although the latter is what the sections are trying to address. The focus is on the modesty of the woman.
6. Which police person can I complain to? Can I complain to the traffic police?
If you intend to initiate a criminal case you must lodge an FIR at the police station. The traffic police can assist you in reaching the police station or if they have witnessed the incident can be made witness. Sometimes it may be enough to create a scene by getting the traffic police involved and causing embarrassment to the man.
7. If I report him, how do I protect myself after that?
Its unlikely that you will need any kind of protection. Once he is arrested, he will have to get bail before he gets out of jail. You can ask the police for protection, if there are threats etc that are made. Bail may even be canceled if there are threats etc being made to the complainant.