SC reserves verdict on appeals against Bombay HC’s skin-to-skin contact ruling

The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved judgment on appeals challenging the Bombay High Court judgment, acquitting a person under Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, after he pressed a girl’s breast over her dress, on the grounds that there was no skin-to-skin contact.

After hearing detailed arguments in the matter, a bench headed by Justice U.U. Lalit asked the counsel for various parties to file written submissions.

The bench, also comprising Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi said: “Parties at liberty to file their written submissions within three days. Order reserved””. On January 27, the top court had stayed the judgment after Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and the National Commission for Women (NCW) filed appeals against it.

Maharashtra government adopted the arguments of the Attorney General, who termed the judgment as outrageous and urged the top court to set it aside.

Slamming this judgment, he had argued that a person wearing surgical gloves can feel the entire body of a woman and then he can get away without punishment.

Emphasising in this case, there was a girl child involved, he, describing the incident, said the man touched her breast and pulled her salwar down. The daughter yelled and the mother rushed to her rescue and then filed a complaint.

Criticising the high court order, the AG stressed it will become a precedent binding on magistrates in Maharashtra and added that there were 43,000 POCSO offences in last one year.

The high court said since the man groped the child without removing her clothes, the offence cannot be termed as sexual assault, and rather constitutes the offence of outraging a woman’s modesty. It modified the order of a sessions court, which had sentenced the 39-year-old man to three years of imprisonment for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.