On August 12, the Sessions Court in Kerala’s Kozhikode district granted anticipatory bail to an activist who was accused of sexual harassment in a second case against him, stating that the case would not be supported by the evidence if the complainant had been dressed in a “sexually provocative dress.” In the first instance involving the author and activist Civic Chandran, the court granted anticipatory bail at the beginning of this month.

The decision was made by a three-judge panel consisting of Justices UU Lalit, S. Ravindra Bhat, and Bela M. Trivedi. They noted that repairing the offender’s fractured psyche may not necessarily depend on the severity of the term imposed. It should be highlighted that Justice UU Lalit will serve as India’s next Chief Justice.

According to the report, the court stated that the woman was not wearing “sexually provocative clothing” at the time the offense under Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code was allegedly committed. The court said, “The photographs produced along with the bail application by the accused would reveal that the defacto complainant herself is exposing to dresses which are having some sexual provocative one. So Section 354A will not prima facie stand against the accused.”

The court noted, “Even admitting that there was physical contact, it is impossible to believe that a man, aged 74, and physically disabled can forcefully put the defacto complainant in his lap.”

The case was filed with a great deal of delay, and the court highlighted that this needed to be well justified.

In one of the two sexual harassment accusations against Civic Chandran, a writer from a Scheduled Tribe tribe alleges that he harassed her during a book signing in April. The other complaint was made by a young author who said he had harassed her in a sexual manner at a nearby book fair in February 2020.

The Koyilandy police attempted to apprehend Chandran through legal means, but they were unsuccessful. On August 2, Chandran was granted anticipatory bail in the initial case by the Kozhikode District Sessions Court. Another woman accused Chandran of sexual harassment on the same day that he was granted anticipatory relief by the court. Then, late last week, he submitted a court application for anticipatory bail in the second case. Following a hearing on the bail application last Friday, the court ordered the police not to detain Chandran.

It’s important to note that numerous courts have rendered decisions in sexual harassment cases that contain peculiar findings. Groping that doesn’t involve skin-to-skin contact is not sexual assault, the Bombay High Court said in 2021. The Nagpur Bench of the Court concluded that the incident would not qualify as sexual assault if the accused did not take off the minor’s top or slid his hands under her clothing.

Days later, the same court determined that, in accordance with the 2012 Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, “the act of holding a girl’s hands and opening the zip of pants will not come under the category of sexual assault.”

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