Section 509 of IPC provides protection to women. IPC 509 talks about the insult to the modesty of a woman. It only talks about women, girls, children not below the age of 14 will cover under this section.

Section 509 ipc – Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman– Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and also with fine.


IPC 509Explanation and Essential Ingredients

Words or gestures intended to insult the modesty of a woman falls within the ambit of the section. The essential ingredients of the section are: where an offender:

  • utters a Word, makes any sound or gesture or exhibits any object;
  • with the intention that it be heard, seen or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman; commits the offence. It is clear that the intention must be to insult the modesty of some particular woman or Women, and not merely any class or section of women, however small.

Even if the exact words could not be placed on record, if the court arrives at a finding that the accused had such an intention for which purpose he uttered the Offending words, it can punish the accused.

An important difference between an offence under Section 509 of IPC and one under sec 500 is that for the latter offence, the exact words spoken or uttered by the accused must be set Outright at the beginning. However, for the offence under Section 509 IPC, it is sufficient if the intention can be gathered from the evidence. The exact words need not be proved.

Exhibiting an Object

Where an accused sent a letter by post containing indecent overtures to an unmarried nurse having no previous acquaintance with him, it was held that the accused had intended to outrage the modesty of the woman by exhibiting the object and the fact that it was in a closed envelope before it reached the lady was immaterial. It is not necessary that the offender himself should personally exhibit the object. He may employ an agent such as the post office for this purpose.

What Constitutes Insult to Modesty of a Woman?

The Supreme Court in the State of Punjab case considered the question of what modesty means, when can it be held that a particular act is said to have outraged a woman’s modesty and whether the modesty of an infant child can be outraged at all. This case involved a 7 and 1/2-month-old female child.

The offender was alleged to have got into the room where the child was sleeping, put off the lights, stripped himself up to his waist and gave vent to his unnatural lust thereby rupturing the hymen of the infant child and causing a tear 3/4” long inside the vagina of the child.

molestion under ipc 509

The trial court was of the view that there could be no offence under section 354, IPC, as an infant child was incapable of developing a sense of modesty. The accused was only sentenced for an offence under section 323 IPC, and sentenced to one year’s rigorous imprisonment and a fine of one thousand rupees. On appeal to the High Court, a Bench of three judges heard the case‘

 A majority of two judges also supported this view that an infant cannot be said to have a sense of modesty and hence the offence was not punishable.

However, a single fudge felt that the sense in which modesty has been referred to in the IPC indicated that it referred not to a particular woman, but to accepted notions of womanly behaviour and conduct, and the use of the term ‘modesty’ in both Section 354 and 509 IPC could only be taken to refer to be an attribute of a human female irrespective of whether the female concerned has developed enough understanding as to appreciate the nature of the act or to realise that it is offensive to decent female behaviour or sense of propriety concerning the relations of a female with Others.

Thus, the offending m was not just an offence against an individual woman, but as an affront to and against public morals and the larger society as a whole. On this basis, he concluded that the offence could be held to be established.

The state appealed against the acquittal to the Supreme Court. In the Supreme Court too, there was a division amongst the three-judge bench. A majority of two judges, R Madholkar and RS Bachawat JJ, held that the act offended to outraging the modesty. and the third judge, AK Sarkar CJ, decided that such acts against infants cannot be held to be offences of outraging the modesty.

Judgements Under Section 509 IPC, Involves Moral Turpitude

In J Jai Shankar v Government of India, the Supreme Court held that the conviction of the offender under Section 509 of IPC involved moral turpitude. Even if the fine amount was below two thousand rupees; that, by itself, was not sufficient to hold that the dismissal of the accused person was improper. Hence, his dismissal from service for the offence was held to be proper.


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