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29 Apr 2017

SC: No room for male chauvinism in a civilised society... she has a right to life and entitled to love according to her choice... has the absolute right to reject

TT, New Delhi, April 28: The Supreme Court today upheld rigorous imprisonment of seven years imposed on a man whose constant sexual harassment led the victim to commit suicide, asserting that "male chauvinism had no room in a civilised society".
Pawan Kumar had kept hounding Shalu, who set herself ablaze in her Chandigarh home in 2008. A year earlier, he had been acquitted of charges of raping the girl but continued to harass her.
"In a civilised society, male chauvinism has no room. The Constitution of India confers affirmative rights on women... When the right is conferred under the Constitution, it has to be understood that there is no condescension. A man should not put his ego or, for that matter, masculinity on a pedestal and abandon the concept of civility," a bench of Justices Dipak Misra, A.M Khanwilkar and M. Shantanagoudar said.
The court stressed that "egoism must succumb to the law". "The instant case portrays the deplorable depravity of the appellant that has led to a heart-breaking situation for a young girl who has been compelled to put an end to her life. The high court has correctly reversed the acquittal and imposed the sentence. The appeal stands dismissed."
A sessions court had acquitted Kumar of abetting the suicide, a ruling that was reversed by the high court in 2010. Justice Misra, who wrote the judgment today, said: "A woman has her own space as a man has. She enjoys as much equality under the Constitution as a man does. The right to live with dignity as guaranteed under the Constitution cannot be violated by indulging in the obnoxious act of eve-teasing. It affects the fundamental concept of gender sensitivity and justice."
Justice Misra added: "In the instant case, the accused had by his acts and by his continuous course of conduct created such a situation as a consequence of which the deceased was left with no other option except to commit suicide. The active acts of the accused have led the deceased to put an end to her life."
"The present case eminently projects a case of psychological harassment. We are at pains to state that in a civilised 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," the bench said.
The apex court wondered why the women in this country cannot be allowed to live in peace and lead a life empowered with dignity and freedom.
"It has to be kept in mind that she has a right to life and entitled to love according to her choice. She has an individual choice which has been legally recognised. It has to be socially respected. No one can compel a woman to love. She has the absolute right to reject," Justice Misra added.

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