Supreme Court champions woman’s “right to reject” [Read judgment]

Supreme Court champions woman’s “right to reject” [Read judgment]

Vasudha Misra

The Supreme Court on Friday observed that the right to live with dignity, as enshrined under Article 21, protects against eve teasing. It also championed a woman’s “right to reject.”

A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A M Khanwilkar and M Shantanagoudar have made some observations in a judgment on the offence of eve-teasing and its repercussions.

The case in question relates to a young girl committing suicide, after evidently failing to deal with the predatory advances of a man.

The accused was acquitted by the trial Court under Section 307 for abetting the suicide of the girl. However, the High Court clearly disagreed and held him guilty.

The accused, aggrieved by this, appealed to the Supreme Court.

Agreeing with the High Court verdict, the Bench begins by stating the obvious, observing,

“A woman has her own space as a man has. She enjoys as much equality under Article 14 of the Constitution as a man does. The right to live with dignity as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be violated by indulging in obnoxious act of eve-teasing.  It affects the fundamental concept of gender sensitivity and justice and the rights of a woman under Article 14 of the Constitution.”

The judgment also makes a pertinent point about the “right to reject”,

“She has an individual choice which has been legally recognized. It has to be socially respected. No one can compel a woman to love. She has the absolute right to reject.”

The Bench went on to lampoon the “ego” that feeds the urge to harass women, noting that,

 “We are at pains to state that in a civilized society eve-teasing is causing harassment to women in educational institutions, public places, parks, railways stations and other public places which only go to show that requisite sense of respect for women has not been socially cultivated.

….A man should not put his ego or, for that matter, masculinity on a pedestal and abandon the concept of civility. Egoism must succumb to law. Equality has to be regarded as the summum bonum of the constitutional principle in this context.”

After the observations above, it comes as no surprise that the man in question was held guilty of the offence, and awarded a seven year term with fine.

Read the judgment below.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news