A special court in Mumbai has sentenced a man to one-and-a-half years imprisonment for harassing a minor girl, observing that calling a girl an "item" is derogatory and objectifies her in a sexual manner.

In the order passed on October 20, the court refused to show leniency to the accused and said such "roadside Romeos" need to be taught a lesson in order to protect women from such uncalled-for behaviour.

Special Judge A J Ansari, designated to hear cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, held the man, aged 25 at the time of the incident, guilty of outraging the modesty of the 16-year-old victim by addressing her as an "item" and pulling her hair near her residence in suburban Mumbai in July 2015.

"The fact that the accused intentionally caught hold of the the victim's hair and pulled it and called her an 'item', in my opinion, will certainly go to prove the fact of him having outraged her modesty," the Court held.

The accused's behaviour was "wholly inappropriate", the Court observed.

The accused addressed her by using the term 'item' which is a term used generally by boys to address girls in a derogatory fashion as it objectifies them in a sexual manner. The same will clearly indicate his intention of outraging her modesty, the order said.

"Using the term 'item' to address any girl is obviously insulting in nature," it added.

The acts of the accused were obviously done with a sexual intent as the word item when used to address a girl is only used to objectify her sexually and nothing else, the Court said.

The Court further said leniency could not be shown to the accused as the case related to the harassment of a minor girl on the street.

"Such offences need to be dealt with a heavy hand as a lesson needs to be meted out to such roadside Romeos, in order to protect women from their uncalled-for behaviour, it said.

On July 14, 2015, when the victim was returning from school, the accused accosted her and called her an "item". When the girl asked the man not to harass her, he started abusing her and pulled her hair. She then called the police helpline number 100 and sought help.

The police reached the spot but the accused fled. The girl went home and informed her father following which a complaint was lodged at Sakinaka police station in Mumbai. The accused was subsequently arrested and released on bail.

With PTI inputs