Updated: January 28, 2021 3:50:39 am
The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Bombay High Court order acquitting a man of sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on the ground that groping a child over her clothes without direct “skin to skin” physical contact does not constitute the offence under the Act. The court had instead convicted the man under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde stayed the acquittal after Attorney General K K Venugopal brought the matter to the court’s notice and said it is “unprecedented” and is likely to “set a dangerous precedent”.
“It is a very disturbing conclusion,” the A-G told the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian. Urging the court to take suo motu notice, Venugopal said he will file a petition on Thursday.
Allowing the A-G’s request, the court stayed the acquittal under Section 8 of POCSO Act and issued notice to the accused. Section 8 of the POCSO Act provides for a sentence of rigorous imprisonment of three to five years.
On January 12, the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court, modified the ruling of a sessions court, which convicted 39-year-old Bandu Ragde under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and sentenced him to three years in jail. The high court convicted him under Section 354 of the IPC, which deals with assault or use of criminal force to any woman with an intent to outrage her modesty, and sentenced him to one year in jail.
“…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,” the court said, acquitting the accused under Section 8 of POCSO Act.
The high court also held the accused guilty under Section 342 of the IPC for wrongful confinement of the prosecutrix. The sentences were to run concurrently.
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