Addressing a group of women students at an event in Kochi, recently, Kerala’s Excise Commissioner Rishi Raj Singh said “a case can be filed against a man if he stares at a woman for more than 14 seconds”. Singh quickly became the butt of all jokes on social media. Kerala's sports minister E.P. Jayarajan even termed Singh’s statement as annoying.
Said Singh to THE WEEK, “I am least bothered about trolls on me. When I said 14 seconds, I didn’t specifically mean 14 seconds. It can be 14 minutes, 14 hours, or, for that matter, even two seconds. At the end of the day, it is the woman who decides it.” Singh said that he was referring to the Justice J.S. Verma Committee report, which was set up after the Nirbhaya gangrape in Delhi.
“In that report, they had specifically mentioned a fixed time for which a man can stare a woman. If it crosses that specific time, it amounts to a crime and a case can be registered. The government did not accept that specific suggestion,” he said.
“Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code mentions any ‘force’ on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty is a crime. But as per Section 354C, even looking at a woman is a crime. Section 354A and Section 354D are common laws on women. But Section 354B and Section 354C are more strict and it even mentions gazing at a woman or stalking her as crimes,” he said.
Singh belongs to the Indian Police Service. People who are creating hullabaloo over his remarks are all men, he said.
“No woman is talking about it. Ask your female colleagues, they will support what I said. Why are we, the men, only discussing it? Don’t stress on 14 seconds. It was merely a colloquial reference. Take away the larger message from what I said,” said Singh.