Bombay HC order on ‘skin-to-skin contact’ for POCSO offences is ‘outrageous’, AG tells SC | India News

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NEW DELHI: Attorney general K K Venugopal on Tuesday termed as “outrageous” the recent judgment of Bombay high court which held that “skin-to-skin” contact is essential for a sexual assault offence under the POCSO Act. He told the Supreme Court that it would have wider ramification on 43,000 cases registered under the Act every year.
Appearing before a bench of Justices U U Lalit and Ajay Rastogi, the attorney general said the high court grossly erred in holding that when there is “no direct physical contact—skin to skin with sexual intent, without penetration, it would not amount to the offence under Protection of Children from Sexual offences (POCSO) Act.”
He said it would lead to a situation when a man wearing surgical gloves could harass a girl and the same would not be considered as sexual assault.
The Maharashtra government and the National Commission for Women (NCW) also supported the contentions and pleaded that the verdict be reversed.
The commission filed a separate appeal against the HC order through its lawyer Nitin Saluja and contended the interpretation adopted by the high court that the term “physical contact” in Section 7, POCSO Act means only “skin to skin touch” is “perverse”.
“If such a perverse interpretation of physical contact is allowed, it will adversely impact the basic rights of women, who are victims of sexual offences in the society and will undermine the beneficial statutory safeguards prescribed under various legislations aimed at protecting the interest of women,” it said.
“From a plain reading of the relevant provision, it is clear that sexual assault in terms of Section 7, POCSO Act is predominantly a touch by the offender. If an accused touches a victim (or a victim’s body part) with sexual intent then the act of sexual assault is complete. There can be no further classification of contact, i.e. skin to skin contact,” the commission said.
The apex court adjourned the proceedings after a brief hearing as the accused who was acquitted by high court was not represented before it. It directed that the man be given legal assistance from the SC Legal Services Committee.
In its controversial ruling, the HC had said “stricter proof and serious allegations are required” given the “stringent” punishment of minimum three to maximum five years’ imprisonment provided under POCSO.

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