Gargi college incident (Delhi University)

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On 6th February during a festival in Gargi College in Delhi, a large group of drunken men entered into the college premises with a motive of molesting and harassing the women student and did the same. It was noted by the crowd that the outsiders who entered into the college were participating in a CAA rally nearby when they entered the college and groped the student, locked them in washrooms and misbehaved with them.

Over eleven (11) police teams were involved in looking at technical details and they also visited several places in Delhi NCR to identify the suspects and investigate the case. Several other people were questioned by the police and multiple suspects were identified. The footage of 33 CCTVs installed on the college premises were examined by the police in which footage of 3 CCTVs, it was found that a large group of youth pushed a catering van to damage a gate and after damaging the gate, they all rushed in by climbing over the barricades and started molesting women.

Atul Thakur, DCP (South), said that “the arrested persons are from various colleges of Delhi University and other private universities in NCR. The accused are in the age group of 18 to 25 years. Ten (10) people have been arrested and the investigation is still on and more people will be arrested. We identified the arrested persons with the help of CCTV footage.”

The incident came into light when some students of Delhi University’s Gargi College narrated their unpleasant experiences during a college fest on February 6 to social media and stated that the security personnel did nothing to control the incident.

The college students boycotted the classes, while over 100 students held a protest on February 10 outside the Gargi College, demanding strict action against the intruders and resignation of Principal Promila Kumar. The students had also demanded a fact-finding committee to look into the matter, and its interim report has come out in support of the students’ allegations, confirming that several students faced various levels of harassment, with complaints ranging from flashing, groping, throwing eggs, inappropriate comments, being chased, belongings being stolen etc.

Delhi Police registered a case on February 10, 4 days after the incident, when they received a complaint from college authorities. This case is registered at the Hauz Khas police station under Indian Penal Code, 1860 u/s 452 (House-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 509 (Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) and 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention). Moreover, the SC has refused to entertain a plea and asked for the case to first be taken to the Delhi High Court.

Legal provisions involved

There are various legislations which deal with crimes like molestation and harassing women and various acts have been made punishable, out of which there are many relating especially to women such as Disrobing a woman, Voyeurism, Stalking, Acid Attack, Sexual Harassment, Cruelty by husband or his relatives, Dowry Death and many others.  Indian Penal Code, 1860 deals with the provisions for all of these.

Under Indian Penal Code, 1860, (IPC) Section 452 deals with the provision for the persons who commits house trespass having preparation for causing hurt to another person or wrongfully restraining another person or to put any person in fear of hurt or assault or wrongful restraint. He shall be punished with imprisonment for the term decided by court, which can be extended to seven (7) years and shall also be liable to pay fine. In the present case, we can relate the incidents to this provision of law as there was trespass into the college and all the women were put into the position of fear and were wrongfully restrained in the washroom. This offence is cognizable, which means that the police can arrest those persons without a warrant and can start an investigation with or without the permission of court. In addition to this, the offence is also non-bailable.

Another legal provision in IPC is one that deals with assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty under Section 354. It talks about the person who assaults or uses criminal force towards any woman with the intention to outrage the modesty of the woman. He shall be punished with the term not less than one year but which can be extended to five years as the case may be. It is also a cognizable and non-bailable offence. In this Section, assault is a special ingredient.

In the resent case too, the incident hampered the modesty of the women and criminal force was used as well. In the case of State v. Hetram 1982 (2) Crimes 161,  a girl, who was about 15 years, was coming from her mother’s place when the accused suddenly came between the road and dragged her towards the other side of the road and took her to a secluded spot. It was held that this act was sufficient to book the accused under S. 354.

In the case of State of Punjab v. Major Singh AIR 1967 SC 63, the accused had caused injuries to the vagina of a seven and a half month old. The court held that the essence of women’s modesty is her sex. Young-old, Intelligent- dumb, awake- sleeping, women possess a modesty capable of being outraged.

Further, under S.509 of IPC, it is stated that any person who intends to insult the modesty of the woman by words or gestures or the act or makes any disrespectful sound or exhibits any object which intrudes the privacy of the woman shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may be extended to three years and also with the fine depending upon the facts of the case. In the Gargi case, similar behaviour can be seen as the intruders outraged the modesty and insulted woman by locking them in the washroom, passing derogatory comments and inappropriately touching them. It is a cognizable and bailable offence.

In Bankey v. State of U.P. AIR 1961 All.131, wherein the accused entered the apartment of a lady, caught hold of her and removed her garments, it was held by the court that he had intruded upon the privacy of the woman. This section does not require element of criminal force or assault which is essential element of offence under S. 354.

For all these offences, a statutory body named The National Commission for Women (NCW) was formed in January 1992 under the National Commission for Women’s Act. Its mandate is to advice the government on all policy matters concerning all the women, to review various legislation created by legislators and to intervene or initiate proceedings in the Supreme Court on matters concerning woman.

Conclusion

Notwithstanding the number of laws to protect and safeguard the rights and interests of the woman, the rate of crimes against women is mushrooming day by day. The incident at Gargi College further highlights the despondent situation of women, as many students of all-girls college were molested and sexually assaulted in their own fest, in the heart of India’s capital.

It is well said by the people that it takes two to tango. It implies that only law is not responsible to control and regulate the increase of the crimes against the women in our society. The inculcation of social ethics, morals and values respect and honor in every human being towards women is the need of the hour. There is exigency of more strict and fast action to be taken against the harassers in the present case too, with cooperation of the college authorities and the police.

Author: Karan Kashyap from Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune.

Editor: Ismat Hena from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.

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