Highlights:

  • SC reserved a verdict of Bombay High Court ruling that skin-to-skin contact was a necessary ingredient for punishing a person accused of sexually assaulting
  • Bombay high court had acquitted a man of sexual assault charges under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act
  • Appeals challenging the judgement were lodged by the National Commission for Women

On Thursday, the Supreme Court reversed a verdict of Bombay High Court ruling that skin-to-skin contact was a necessary ingredient for punishing a person accused of sexually assaulting minors. The apex court noted that the most important ingredient in convicting sexual offenders under POCSO Act is “sexual intent and not skin-to-skin.”

Reportedly, in a controversial ruling, the Bombay high court had acquitted a man of sexual assault charges under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act for groping a 12-year-old child. The apex court ordered the accused to surrender in four weeks and endure a punishment of three years and five years punishment as laid down by the Special POCSO court.

In January, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court had reserved the conviction of a man who was found guilty under the POCSO Act for groping a 12-year-old girl four years ago, commuting his punishment.

The court observed that it could not be deemed an offence under the POCSO Act because there had been no skin-to-skin contact with sexual intent as the child was clothed. On January 19, the court noted, “Admittedly, it is not the case of the prosecution that the appellant removed her top and pressed her breast. As such, there is no direct physical contact i.e skin-to-skin with sexual intent without penetration.”

Hence, the court acquitted the blame under Section 8 (punishment of sexual assault) of the POCSO act. Nonetheless, the court maintained his conviction under Section 354 (assault or criminal force) and 342 (wrongful confinement) of the IPC and cited that the act which he committed amounted to the use of criminal forces to outrage her modesty.

The punishment for sexual assault under Section 8 of the POCSO Act conditions imprisonment of three to five years. On the other hand, the punishment under Section 354 of IPC states imprisonment of one to five years.

The matter was brought forth by the top court following Attorney general KK Venugopal had asked the court to reverse the judgement, stating it was a “very disturbing conclusion” and it would set a dangerous precedent. India’s top law officer also voiced that going by the approach of the high court, anybody can get away with a sexual assault offence by wearing surgical gloves. Successively, appeals challenging the judgement were lodged by the National Commission for Women.

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