MUMBAI: In an unusual instance, a magistrate’s court convicted a 35-year-old man for molesting a woman from Grant Road in 2015, but only fined him Rs 5,000; no sentence was awarded. The maximum sentence under Indian Penal Code section for sexual harassment is three years.

Finding the accused, Naresh Betkar, guilty, the magistrate said, “Looking to the nature of offence and looking to the society, for the ends of justice, he is to be awarded only.”

The woman, the first witness to depose in the case, told the court that the incident took place on May 30, 2015, around 7.15pm, when she was returning home from work. When she was approaching her building, Betkar walked towards and molested her, she told the court. The woman said she raised an alarm and local residents and passersby caught him and beat him up. The woman said she too thrashed the accused. The crowd then took Betkar to Gamdevi police station, where the woman lodged a complaint. Other witnesses included the woman’s brother-in-law, who had helped nab the accused.

Betkar too produced a witness, a cousin who was with him at the time of the incident. The defence witness said he and the accused were not drunk. He submitted that they were in a hurry and inadvertently, Betkar dashed into the woman. The witness said his cousin immediately apologised to her, but she started assaulting him and a crowd gathered. The witness said he got scared when people started assaulting Betkar and he fled. In his deposition, Betkar reiterated his cousin’s version.

After pronouncing the order, the court reasoned that while it was illegal for the woman or the public to beat the accused on the spot, no one could bear such immoral things. “The defence of the accused is that the he and his cousin were in hurry to reach home…but it cannot be spared to harass anybody or to give anybody trouble,” the magistrate said. The court said there was a big difference between being in a hurry and the act done by the accused. “No one can scream without any incident, but here it is the evidence of prosecutor that she had raised alarm immediately,” the magistrate said.

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