Voyeurism (Section 354C)
By: Robin Pandey Date: 01/03/2022
Section 354C is a new provision prescribing an offence based on the suggestions of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, constituted in a aftermath of the December 2012 Nirbhaya rape incident. During the deliberations, the Committee was surprised to find out those offences such as stalking, voyeurism, eve-teasing etc. are perceived as minor offences, even though they are capable of depriving not only a girl child but frail children of their right to education and their freedom of expression and movement. The Committee was of the view that it is not sufficient for the State to legislate and establish machinery of prosecution, but conscious and well thought out attempts are required to be made to ensure the culture of mutual respect is fostered in India's children. Preventive measures for the initial minor aberrations were deemed necessary to check their escalation into major sexual aberrations.
Section 354C reads:
"Any man who watches, or captures the image of, a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation not being observed either by, the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Explanation 1: For the purposes of this section, "private act" includes an act of watching carried out in a place which, in the circumstances, would reasonably be expected to provide privacy, and where the victim's genitals, posterior or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory; or the victim is doing a sexual act that is not a kind ordinarily done in public.
Explanation 2: Where the victim consents to the capture of images or any act, but not to their dissemination to third persons and where such image or act is disseminated such dissemination shall be considered an offence under this section"
Ingredients: It is also a gender specific offence. The expression *voyeurism means gratification derived from observing the genitals or sexual acts of others, me ally secretly. The definition of this offence has the following ingredients
(1) If a person:
(a) either watches,
(b) or captures the image
(2) of a woman engaging in a private act
(3) in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of
(a) either not being observed by the perpetrator
(b) or not being observed by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator.
Thus, any person who watches or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act or any person who on behalf of the perpetrator disseminates such image is said to have committed the offence of voyeurism.
The term private act has been widely worded in the explanation 1 appended to Section and explanation 2 further clarifies that even if the victim consents to the capturing of the image or any act but not to the dissemination of it, to third person, the dissemination of it would constitute the offence within the ambit of this provision.
Punishment: The first offence is punishable with imprisonment of either description for not less than one year but may extend to three years with fine. The second and subsequent offence is punishable with imprisonment of either Description for not less than three years but may extend to seven years with fine.