The Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has 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, according to LiveLaw. Instead, it would merely amount to molestation under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Sexual assault, under the POCSO, attracts a minimum punishment of three years. Whereas, outraging a woman’s modesty (Section 354 of the IPC) attracts a minimum punishment of only one year. The former is naturally a graver offence than the latter.
What Did the Court Say
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 salwaar.
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.
“Considering the stringent nature of punishment provided for the offence, in the opinion of this Court, stricter proof and serious allegations are required.”
The court also added: “The act of pressing breast can be a criminal force to a woman/girl with the intention to outrage her modesty.”
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, and 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 has now held the man guilty under Sections 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement) and 354 of the IPC, but has acquitted him under Section 8 of the POCSO Act.
(With inputs from LiveLaw.)