Sexual Harassment Trial

Continuing Sexual Harassment Trial Without Identifying the Accused Is a Mockery Upon Womanhood- Madras HC


The Madras High Court in  XXXX v State, (Case No: W.P No.1727 of 2024) regarding sexual harassment accusation under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, made an important observation. It highlighted the systemic challenges in addressing sexual abuse cases and prioritized the protection of the victim’s dignity and well-being over the continuation of legal proceedings without substantial progress in identifying the accused. The Court’s decision revolved around the absence of the accused’s identification for three years, emphasizing the potential harm to the victim if the proceedings continued.

Facts of the Case

The case involved a woman who reported being groped by a man while on a morning walk in November 2020. Despite providing evidence, including images captured by a nearby camera, the accused remained unidentified. The woman, subsequently filed the petition in August 2023, faced distressing circumstances without progress in identifying the perpetrator.

Contention of the Petitioner

The petitioner, the woman assaulted, challenged the witness summons issued by the Metropolitan Magistrate Court, Egmore, citing the lack of progress in identifying the accused and the distress caused by the legal process.

Response of the Respondent

The Respondent, representing the state, presumably defended the continuation of the trial in the Metropolitan Magistrate Court.

Court’s Observation

The Madras High Court observed that the legal system often fails victims of sexual abuse, noting the reluctance of many to pursue justice and the unfriendly nature of the judicial process. The court emphasized the victim’s dual ordeal of enduring abuse and facing embarrassment in Court, labeling it as a form of punishment.

The court remarked, “Even for those who want to fight and establish their right, the system does not seem to be friendly and on the other hand, such victim will have to undergo embarrassing moments in the Court.”

Court’s Decision

The Court decided to quash the proceedings, exercising its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226. It concluded that continuing the trial without identifying the accused would only further embarrass and vilify the victim, constituting a “mockery upon womanhood.”

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