The Supreme Court, on Thursday, 18 December, quashed the verdict of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court which, earlier this year in January, had held that groping a child without 'skin-to-skin contact' would not amount to 'sexual assault' under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Justice UU Lalit, who was heading the bench, set aside the high court judgement, stating that "the most important ingredient of constituting sexual assault is sexual intent and not skin-to-skin contact with the child", as per PTI.
The SC, which was hearing separate appeals of the Attorney General and the National Commission for Women (NCW), said the purpose of the law is not to allow the offender to "escape the meshes of the law".
"We have held that when the legislature has expressed clear intention, the courts cannot create ambiguity in the provision. It is right that courts cannot be overzealous in creating ambiguity," the bench, also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi, said, as per PTI.
A sessions court had previously held a 39-year-old man guilty of sexual assault for groping a 12-year old and attempting to remove her salwar.
However, Justice Puspha Ganediwala of the Bombay High Court modified the order of the sessions court and sentenced the man under Section 354 IPC (outraging a woman's modesty), observing that there was no "specific detail" as to whether the minor's top was removed and there was any skin-to-skin contact.
What Was the Case?
The accused, a 39-year-old man, had allegedly brought a 12-year-old girl to his house on the pretext of giving her a guava, groped her and attempted to remove her salwar.
However, at that moment, the mother of the girl reached the spot and rescued her.
The High Court had held the man guilty under Sections 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement) and 354 of the IPC but acquitted him under Section 8 of the POCSO Act.
(With inputs from PTI.)