The Bombay High Court recently held that sexual assault charges cannot be levelled under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act “unless and until the sexual intent behind the act is specifically proved”.
A single-judge bench of Justice Bharati H Dangre on November 25 passed the order and made the observation while granting anticipatory bail to a Pune resident, who was accused of tearing off a minor’s clothes and touching her inappropriately while physically assaulting her.
The FIR was registered at Chaturshringi police station in Pune on October 20. The applicant moved the High Court through advocate Shailesh S Kharat seeking pre-arrest bail. The informant in the case had alleged that her family had a dispute with the accused over a shop, and they had exchanged legal notices.
It was alleged that, on October 19, while she was in her house, the accused with his wife and two others barged into the house and attacked her parents. The complainant, a 20-year-old woman, also said the man assaulted her and her 17-year-old sister and tore her clothes. He abused and touched them inappropriately, the complainant added.
An FIR was registered under sections 354 (act of criminal force committed on a woman to outrage her modesty), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and Section 7 (sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.
After perusing the allegations, the court observed, “Prima facie, the offence under Section 7 and the punishment under Section 8 of the POCSO Act would not be attracted since unless and until the sexual intent is specifically proved.”
The bench added, “This is a matter of trial since the FIR does not make out any sexual intent.”
The court granted pre-arrest bail stating that the FIR did not indicate that he committed the acts with “sexual intent”.
Justice Dangre further noted, “In the absence of sexual intent being exhibited by the applicant and in the backdrop of discord between the two parties, the applicant is entitled for protection in anticipation of his arrest.”
In the event of arrest, the HC directed the applicant to be released on furnishing a personal bond of Rs 25,000 along with sureties and asked him to cooperate with the investigation.
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