Supreme Court Stays Bombay HC Judgment which said Groping without Skin Contact Not Sexual Assault under POCSO

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has challenged the Bombay High Court judgment where it stated that groping a child’s breasts without any ‘skin-to-skin’ contact will not be considered as sexual assault as defined under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The Chairperson of NCW, Rekha Sharma, on Monday, said,

“the judgment will not only have a cascading effect on various provisions involving the safety and security of women in general but it will also subject all women to ridicule.”

The outrage was witnessed at Child and Women Rights forums throughout the country after the judgment was passed by the Bombay High Court on January 19’ 2021. Justice Pushpa Ganediwala of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court passed the judgment and held that,

“there must be skin-to-skin contact with a sexual intent for any act to be considered as sexual assault.”

Supreme Court Stays Judgement

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The judgment has been stayed by the Supreme Court on Wednesday. The stay order was ordered by a Bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde after Attorney General KK Venugopal mentioned that matter submitting that

“it is a very disturbing conclusion that the Bombay High Court has taken.”

The order by the Supreme Court read as,

“Bombay High Court has apparently acquitted the accused under Section 8 of POCSO (punishment for sexual assault) on the ground that the accused had no sexual intent to commit an offence under POCSO because there was no skin-to-skin contact. Attorney General submitted that the order in question is unprecedented and is likely to set a dangerous precedent. We permit AG Venugopal to file a petition against the said order. In the meanwhile, we stay the acquittal of the accused with respect to the offence under Section 8 of the POCSO Act. Issue notice to accused returnable in two weeks.”

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As per the Bombay High Court, stricter proof and serious allegations are required in order to make sure that the punishment for an offence is proportionate to the seriousness of the crime.

Activist Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association called it an ‘outrageous judgment’ that goes against the letter of the Law.

“The POCSO law defines sexual assault very clearly and it has a provision for sexual touch. This notion that you will circumvent the law by saying touch with or without clothes makes no sense at all. That is absolute rubbish and it fails the test of common sense also. For me, it is a larger question of who qualifies to be a judge in cases related to gender.”

Earlier today, another appeal was filed in the Apex Court by the Youth Bar Association of India against the Bombay High Court judgment.


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