Sexual Harassment provision under Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita

“Sexual Harassment” provision under Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita 2023

Introduction:

On 25 December 2023, the Bharatiya Nyaya (Second) Sanhita 2023 (BNS) received the assent of the President of India. This new statute is set to replace the long-standing Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).  However, the government has not yet announced the official date as to  when the BNS will come into effect. As per Clause 1(2), BNS shall come into force on a date determined by the Central Government through an official notification in the Official Gazette. Distinct dates may be designated for enforcement of various provisions within the Sanhita.

BNS is subdivided into 29 chapters consisting of 356 clauses. BNS now incorporates an additional twenty offenses, while nineteen provisions from the outdated IPC have been omitted. The penalties for 33 offenses now entail extended imprisonment, and fines have been heightened for 83 offenses. A mandatory minimum penalty has been instituted for 23 offenses, and community service punishment has been introduced for six specific offenses.

BNS has introduced a fresh Chapter V titled “Of Offences Against Woman and Child of Sexual Offences.” Here, the offenses concerning “woman” and “child” are now grouped under one chapter at the commencement of the Sanhita, a change from the earlier dispersion of sections for these offences across various chapters in IPC.

The BNS preserves the wordings from the sections of the IPC concerning to offences against women and has not tackled various suggestions put forth by the Justice Verma Committee (2013) and the Supreme Court regarding the reform of crimes against women.

Upcoming POSH Certification Workshop

Sexual Harassment Clause:

In this article we will only explore the changes (if any) made to the “sexual harassment” provision of the Code.

The only striking difference here is “Sexual Harassment” is now defined under Clause 74 of BNS, earlier it was defined under Section 354A of IPC.

Clause 74: (1) A man committing any of the following acts—

  • physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or
  • a demand or request for sexual favours; or
  • showing pornography against the will of a woman; or
  • making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment.

(2) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (i) or clause (ii) or clause (iii) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

(3) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

The wording of Section 354A of IPC that defined “Sexual Harassment” and imposed penalty were exactly the same.

Section 354A: Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment—

A man committing any of the following acts—
physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures.
a demand or request for sexual favours; or
showing pornography against the will of a woman; or
 making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment.

(2) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (i) or clause (ii) or clause (iii) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

(3) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.

Conclusion:

In summary, the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita 2023 (BNS) has secured Presidential approval, heralding a transformative shift in India’s legal framework. Notably, the BNS introduces critical amendments, consolidating offenses, revising penalties, and convers the penalty for sexual harassment under Clause 74. Despite these strides, the official enforcement date of the Code remains pending. This legislative overhaul reflects a nuanced approach to legal reforms, navigating through changes while preserving certain elements from the preceding Indian Penal Code.

Comments are closed.