By Anuradha Gandhi and Isha Sharma
In the present case of online sexual harassment, the complainant alleged the accused to be involved in commission of offences under Sections 354A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Sections 67and 67A of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008.
It was alleged that on the basis of an acceptance of a friend’s request on Facebook, the accused had misused the same and had started sending indecent photographs and videos, which were objectionable. Thereafter, an FIR was lodged on February 03, 2021.
On registration of FIR, the Investigation Officer conducted the inquiry and the offence against the accused was prima facie found to be true in the Charge sheet dated January 17, 2022.
Consequently, the summoning order was issued whereby the accused was summoned to be tried by the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Nainital.
Being aggrieved by the initiation of criminal proceedings, the accused filed the present application challenging the charge sheet and the summoning order under Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Subsequent to the quashing petition, an interim application was filed with an intent to compound the offences.
The complainant made a statement that an apology was expressed by the accused/applicant which was accepted by her end, particularly since the applicant is known to her family members and owing to the same, she did not intend to prosecute the applicant any further for the offences so levelled against him.
The Compounding Application was strongly opposed by the learned Government Advocate on the ground that the offence under Section 354A of IPC is an offence against the society and is not compoundable under Section 320 of the CrPC; though the offence under Sections 67 and 67A of the IT Act were compoundable under Section 77A of the it Act.
In view of the aforementioned statements, the Single Bench of Hon’ble Mr. Justice Sharad Kumar Sharma opined that
“looking to the nature and gravity of offences and also coupled with the fact, that the parties have close affinity with each other, owing to their relationship which they have developed on Facebook, coupled with the fact, that the applicant was known to the family members of the complainant, in order to maintain peace and harmony amongst themselves, the Compounding Application is required to be considered by this Court in the exercise of its powers under Section 482 of CrPC.”
In addition, the court opined that composition in itself should carry a lesson for the applicant that in future he would not engage himself in such types of offences and he should reckon how to acknowledge the sanctity of a friendly relationship.
Accordingly, the proceedings pending before the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Nainital hereby stand quashed. But since the offence is not compoundable, the quashing of the aforesaid criminal proceedings shall be subject to the following conditions, namely:
1. That the applicant would be planting fifty trees in an area to be identified by the Horticulture Department of his District or Taluka to which he belongs, at his own cost.
2. The plantation of the trees would be made in the respective areas, from which he belongs, under the supervision of the Horticulture Department.
3. It is only upon the submission of the certificate of the planting of the fifty trees to be issued by the competent authority of the Horticulture Department, which has to be submitted before the competent court ceased with the criminal proceedings, its then only the proceedings would be dropped, in compliance of the order passed in the present application.
4. If the aforesaid compliance is not made within a period of one month from the date of the said order, it will automatically result into the revival of the aforesaid criminal proceedings.
5. If at any stage, any Officer of the Horticulture Department is found to have issued a fraudulent certificate, he would be criminally dealt with in accordance with law”
Owing to the aforementioned, the matter of online sexual harassment was compounded and the application stand disposed of.
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