The National Commission for Women (NCW) has prompted the Supreme Court challenging the Bombay High Court verdict which had said that touching a minor’s chest without “skin to skin contact” cannot be considered as sexual assault as prescribed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. A panel headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde had on January 27 stayed the high court’s verdict after Attorney General K K Venugopal had considered the matter before it and said that the judgment was “unprecedented” and was likely to set a “dangerous precedent”.
The top court had also issued notice to the Maharashtra government and authorized the Attorney General to file a petition against the January 19 verdict of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court.
In its plea filed in the apex court, the NCW has said that if such a “perverse interpretation of physical contact is allowed, it will adversely impact the basic rights of women, who are victims of sexual offenses in the society and will undermine the beneficial statutory safeguards prescribed under various legislations aimed at protecting the interest of women.”
In its verdict, the high court had stated that since the man groped the child without removing her clothes, the offense cannot be considered as sexual assault but it does constitute the offense of offending a woman’s dignity under section 354 of the Indian Penal Code. It had altered the order of a sessions court, which had sentenced a 39-year-old man to three years of imprisonment for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.