In a controversial order that could have implications on a variety of cases, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court excused a man of sexual assault on the grounds that touching the chest of a child over her clothes without direct “skin to skin” physical contact cannot be considered as “sexual assault” under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The verdict, passed by Justice Pushpa V Ganediwala on January 19, set down the ruling of a lower court under Section 8 of POCSO relevant to “sexual assault” on children, against convict Satish Bandu Ragde. Considering that Section 8 of POCSO provides for harsh punishment of five years of severe imprisonment (RI), the High Court remarked that “stricter proof and serious allegations are required”.
The judge said: “As such, there is no direct physical contact i.e. skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration”. The bench observed that “the act of pressing breast can be a criminal force to a woman/ girl with the intention to outrage her modesty. In view of the above discussion, ‘this Court holds that the appellant is acquitted under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and convicted under minor offense u/s 354 of IPC and sentenced him to undergo RI,” the judge said. The maximum penalty is five years and the minimum one year for an offense under this section.