PIL against amended sexual harassment law: Delhi HC issues notice to MHA

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of a penal provision on sexual harassment on the ground that it was "vague" and susceptible to misuse.

The change in section 354A (sexual harassment) of the IPC was brought about after the horrific December 16, 2012 gangrape-cum-murder case.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar sought the response of the Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs and posted the matter for hearing on August 30.

The petition, filed by advocate Divyadeep Chaturvedi, sought striking down of provisions under section 354A (sexual harassment) of the IPC, including the one which says "a man making sexually coloured remarks shall be guilty of sexual harassment".

The expression "is too vague and makes it impossible for a person of ordinary intelligence to know what is prohibited, so that he may act accordingly," the plea said.

It said this puts the liberty of a person in jeopardy, merely on the basis of the subjective interpretation of the person perceiving himself or herself being subjected to a particular remark.

It said section 354A is "unconstitutional, arbitrary and unreasonable" and violative of Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

The petition also said the provision does not specify the gender of the subject of crime but only of the perpetrator, which is "unreasonable".

As per the provision the gender of the perpetrator is given as man whereas the victim's gender is not specified.

After the gangrape of a 23-year-old woman on December 16, 2012, a committee under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court judge Justice J S Verma was constituted to suggest amendments to the criminal law to sternly deal with sexual offences.

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