Supreme Court stays Bombay HC order on ‘skin-to-skin’ contact for sexual assault under POCSO Act

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the acquittal of the accused under the Bombay High Court Judgment which held that pressing of breasts of a minor girl without disrobing does not amount to “sexual assault” within the meaning of Section 8 of POCSO Act.

The order was passed by a bench headed by the Chief Justice of India on a mention made by the Attorney General, KK Venugopal.

Venugopal submitted that the judgment which held that ‘skin to skin’ contact is necessary for sexual assault under POCSO Act is ‘unprecedented’ and is ‘likely to set a dangerous precedent’.

CJI Bobde has directed AG to file proper petition challenging the judgment , The Court has stayed the acquittal of accused under Section 8 of POCSO and issued notice to him returnable within 2 weeks.

In the impugned judgment, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court held that such an act would amount to ‘molestation’ under Section 354 of IPC and not Sexual assault under section 8 of the POCSO Act.

In paragraph no. 26 of the impugned order, the Single Judge had held that “there is no direct physical contact i.e. skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration”. The act of pressing breast can be a criminal force to a woman/ girl with the intention to outrage her modesty”.

Few days earlier, the National Commission for Women (NCW) had announced that it will challenge the impugned judgment, stating that the same 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.

Meanwhile, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked the Maharashtra Government to file an “urgent appeal” against the impugned judgment. The NCPCR chief in his letter underlined that it seems that the identity of the victim has been disclosed and the commission is of the view that the state should take note of this and initiate necessary steps.