Updated: January 26, 2021 2:15:08 am
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has urged Maharashtra government to appeal against the ruling of the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court, acquitting a man of sexual assault on the grounds that pressing the breasts of a child over her clothes without direct “skin to skin contact’’ does not constitute sexual assault under POCSO Act.
The panel has termed the verdict “alarming”.
“In the present matter…it has been observed by the Commission that the prosecution has failed in presenting the case of the victim properly. If the prosecution had made the submissions as per the spirit of the POCSO Act, the accused would not have been acquitted from the serious offence against the minor. Further, the remark “skin to skin with sexual intention without penetration’’ also needs to be reviewed and the State should take note of this as it seems to be derogatory to the minor victim,’’ states the letter from NCPCR Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo to the Maharashtra Chief Secretary.
The NCPCR has also expressed concern that the victim’s identity has been disclosed in direct violation of the Act and has asked the state government to investigate the matter.
“In view of the above and considering the seriousness of the issue, the Commission being the monitoring body under Section 44 of the POCSO Act, 2012, requests you to take necessary steps in the matter and file an urgent Appeal against the aforesaid impugned judgement of Honourable High Court,’’ Kanoongo has stated in his letter.
The verdict, delivered by Justice Pushpa V Ganediwala on January 19, set aside the ruling of a lower court against convict Satish Bandu Ragde under Section 8 of POCSO Act applicable to sexual assault on children. Section 8 provides for a punishment of rigorous imprisonment for five years. The high court had observed that “stricter proof and serious allegations are required’’ and that as such there is “no physical contact’’.
“The judgment is alarming on so many levels in that it redefines the term sexual assault that has been laid down by POCSO. ‘Skin to skin contact’ is not mandated in the Act to define sexual assault and the court has attempted to redefine the POCSO Act,” Kanoongo told The Indian Express.
“Further, it sets an extremely dangerous precedent and, in the future, this judgment can be cited for bail applications and those of acquittal by sexual offenders. It will also become far more difficult to prosecute sexual offenders. We have written to the state government to appeal immediately as they are a party in this case. The NCPCR is not party to the case and so we cannot appeal. But if the state does not appeal, then we will approach the Bombay High Court with a writ petition or PIL,’’ he added.
Meanwhile, chairperson for National Commission for Women Rekha Sharma on Monday tweeted, “NCW is challenging the Honorable Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench judgement …this judgement will not only have cascading effect on various provisions involving safety and security of women in general but also put all the women under ridicule and has trivialized the legal provisions provided by the legislature for the safety and security of women.’’
She added in another tweet, “We are going to challenge it in Apex court”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines