The case of “outraging the modesty” of a woman against actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui may be yet another example of how a law meant to protect women from sexual crime may be misused, say legal experts and even former Maharashtra State Women’s Commission (SWC) chief Susieben Shah.
Versova police had at 4pm on Sunday, registered an FIR against the Bajrangi Bhaijan actor under Indian Penal Code (IPC)’s Section 354, which makes it an offence if criminal force is intentionally or knowingly used on a woman to shame or molest her.
The FIR by a 24-year-old alleged that the actor “pushed me back with both hands on my chest because of which I felt ashamed”. She said the dispute was over parking of a motorcycle in the Versova building compound when she was sitting with her grandmother. Police immediately invoked Section 354 against Nawazuddin.
“I never even touched any woman. There is no parking problem. I had only told a woman not to shoot a video. This is an absolutely false case,” Nawazuddin told TOIon Monday. “You can ask any member of the society how I have beautified the premises… I am one of the 20 society members to have signed a petition against the secretary, perhaps which is why I am being targeted. She just found me to be a soft target.” He added that he had already given his statement to the police. “I have explained what happened to the police.”
His lawyer Rizwan Siddiquee said, “I took Nawazuddin to Versova police station around 1.30pm. He narrated the entire incident, and gave video footage to show the ulterior motive behind the complaint. The fact that he went to the police on his own in a non-bailable case also shows that the FIR is false.”
Society members also assembled in his support at the building on Monday. The actor said earlier, at 1pm, a group of five had entered his flat to give some letter and they had shouted at and shoved his wife who, too, later went and lodged an FIR of trespass, criminal intimidation and outraging modesty. Her FIR was taken at 8.30pm.
Rows over parking are common and cannot be viewed through the prism of crime against women, said lawyers.
“A case like this ought to have ideally been treated as a non-cognizable offence, just a woman in the picture cannot make a row a crime against woman,” said advocate Pranav Badheka.
Senior counsel Amit Desai said, “For scuffles in a society, which appear to emanate from an existing societal dispute, police must invoke Section 354 with extreme care, caution, circumspection and application of mind.”
Shah, the former SWC chief, also expressed surprise at the speed with which police registered a molestation case against the actor. “I have had to move heaven and earth to get an FIR registered against physically battered women but here, perhaps because he is a celebrity and perhaps with some motive, a complaint has been immediately registered for a ‘shove’.”
The Supreme Court has held that “intention and knowledge” are key ingredients for this offence.
This article originally appeared in Times of India. Click Here to read the original article.