Saturday, September 23, 2023

Bombay High Court grants anticipatory bail to auto driver, says expressing liking by holding hand cannot be termed sexual harassment

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The Bombay High Court has granted anticipatory bail to a rickshaw driver on the grounds that expressing liking for a minor girl by holding her hand did not amount to outraging the modesty of the girl.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Bharati Dangre noted on February 10 that accused Dhanraj Babusingh Rathod did not have any sexual intent to either outrage the modesty of the minor girl or to sexually harass her and thus, no case was prima facie made out.

The Bench further observed that the applicant deserved protection from arrest, as his custody was not needed for any purpose.

As per the first information report (FIR) lodged by the father of the victim on November 1, 2022, accused Dhanraj attempted to sexually harass his 17-year-old daughter and even outraged her modesty by holding her hand. 

The father said the applicant was known to the victim and her family as he lived in their vicinity. He used to drive an auto rickshaw and the victim had at times travelled in the same, to reach her school and tuition centre.

After some time, the girl stopped travelling in the autorickshaw of the applicant. On the day of the incident, the applicant stopped her and persuaded her to travel in his rickshaw, but she refused to oblige.

He then held the victim’s hands, expressed his love for her and insisted that she sit in his auto so that he could drop her home.

The girl, however, ran away from the spot and narrated the incident to the father, after which an FIR was lodged against Rathod.

Justice Dangre, while granting anticipatory bail to the autorickshaw driver, warned him not to indulge in a similar incident again, else, the protection conferred on him would be withdrawn. 

The applicant was represented by Advocates R.J. Shinde and M.L. Jadhav, while Advocate Samir Das appeared for the victim. The States was represented by Additional Public Prosecutor V.A. Thakre.

(Case title: Dhanraj Babusingh Rathod vs State of Maharashtra)

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