‘Precious human resource’: SC says sexual assault on children should be viewed seriously

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said any act of sexual assault or harassment against children have to be dealt in a stringent manner and a message must be conveyed to the society at large that sexual harassment or use of children for pornographic purposes will be punished suitably.

A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna said: “Any act of sexual assault or sexual harassment to the children should be viewed very seriously and all such offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment on the children have to be dealt with in a stringent manner and no leniency should be shown to a person who has committed the offence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.”

By awarding a suitable punishment commensurate with the act of sexual assault, sexual harassment, a message must be conveyed to the society at large that, if anybody commits any offence under the POCSO Act of sexual assault, sexual harassment or use of children for pornographic purposes they will be punished suitably and no leniency shall be shown to them, it added.

The bench added that there are different modes of a child’s exploitation and children and more, particularly the girl child, deserves full protection and needs greater care and protection whether in the urban or rural areas.

Justice Shah, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench, said: “Children are precious human resources of our country; they are the country’s future. The hope of tomorrow rests on them. But unfortunately, in our country, a girl child is in a very vulnerable position.”

The bench noted that in the present case, it has been established and proved that the accused penetrated his finger in the vagina and because of that the victim girl felt pain and irritation in urination as well as pain on her body and there was redness and swelling around the vagina found by the doctor.

“We are of the opinion that therefore the case would fall under Section 3(b) of the POCSO Act and it can be said to be penetrative sexual assault and considering Section 5(m) of the POCSO Act as such penetrative sexual assault was committed on a girl child aged four years (below twelve years), the same can be said to be ‘aggravated penetrative sexual assault’ punishable under Section 6 of the POCSO Act,” said Justice Shah.

The top court judgment came on an appeal filed by Nawabuddin, 75 years, challenging the Uttarakhand High Court judgment, passed in August 2019, which upheld the trial court order convicting the accused under rape charges and handed down a sentence of life imprisonment.

“The accused, instead of showing fatherly love, affection and protection to the child against the evils of the society, rather made her the victim of lust. It is a case where trust has been betrayed and social values are impaired. Therefore, the accused as such does not deserve any sympathy and/or any leniency,” said the bench.

The top court said both, the trial court as well as the high court have rightly convicted the accused for the offences under Section 5 of the POCSO Act punishable under Section 6 of the POCSO Act.

“Cases of sexual assault or sexual harassment on the children are instances of perverse lust for sex where even innocent children are not spared in pursuit of such debased sexual pleasure.”

The top court upheld Nawabuddin’s conviction, for putting his finger into the private part of a four-year-old child, however, considering his age, it reduced his sentence from life imprisonment to 15-year jail.

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