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Touching minors with ‘sexual intent’ is punishable under POCSO Act: SC

18/11/2021 at 4:16 PM

New Delhi, Nov 18: The Supreme Court of India, in one of the significant rulings said, touching a minor girl with an evil intention is punishable under POCSO Act.

No skin to skin touch is not a parameter to punish an offender who molests a woman with an evil intention, said the Order passed on Thursday.

The order ruled that “skin to skin” contact is not necessary for a crime to be considered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Calling it a “narrow interpretation of the law”, the court set aside the Bombay High Court’s judgement that had acquitted a man who was allegedly groped a minor girl’s chest and abused her sexually.

Earlier the Bombay High Court had ruled, “groping a minor’s breast without ‘skin to skin contact’ can’t be termed as sexual assault under POCSO”.

Interpreting the objective of POCSO, the order said that the Act is meant to protect children from sexual abuse. The court said that physical contact made with sexual intent comes under POCSO, and “skin to skin” contact is not the criteria.

Acting over the verdict of the Bombay High Court, Attorney General KK Venugopal had opposed the Bombay HC’s verdict to be unjust and unfavourable for the girl children.

The Attorney General, National Commission of Women, State of Maharashtra and Youth Bar Association of India had challenged the Bombay HC order stating that such observations would have a wide impact on the entire society and public at large.

Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra argued on behalf of the accused and said, “sexual intent requires physical contact but, in this case, the clothing was touched not the skin.”

“We have held that when the legislature has expressed clear intention, the courts cannot create ambiguity in the provision. It is right that courts cannot be overzealous in creating ambiguity,” the bench, comprising Justices UU Lalit, SR Bhat, and Bela M Trivedi said.

“The most important ingredient for constituting the offence of sexual assault is sexual intent and not skin-to-skin contact with the child.

Any narrow interpretation of the provision which would defeat its object cannot be accepted. The intention of the legislature cannot be given effect unless the wider interpretation is given,” the bench said.

Notably, for the first time in the nation, the Attorney General filed an appeal on the criminal side.

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