‘No sexual assault’ in minor’s groping: Supreme Court stays Bombay HC order
The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed a “disturbing” decision of the Bombay high court (HC) which held that groping a minor girl without touching her skin did not amount to sexual assault under Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Attorney General KK Venugopal mentioned the judgment passed by a single judge of Nagpur bench of Bombay HC on January 19. By this order, the court acquitted a man accused of groping a 12-year old girl. The HC on appeal acquitted him of this charge and held him guilty only under molestation punishable with one year under IPC Section 354.
The three-judge bench headed by CJI SA Bobde issued notice to the accused and Maharashtra government to reply within two weeks. “Meanwhile, we stay the acquittal of accused in regard to Section 8 of POCSO,” said the bench also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
The AG said, “The order is very disturbing and is likely to set a dangerous precedent.” He requested the court to take suo motu cognizance as he was in the process of filing a petition against the order.
The bench permitted the AG to file a petition and stayed the acquittal of the man.
The HC had held that no offence under Section 8 of POCSO was made out as there was no physical contact. The man was accused of groping the girl and removing her salwar.
The AG said, “It is an unprecedented order as it will mean that if a cloth is touched, no case under Section 8 is made out. This court must take notice of the judgement.”
The accused was earlier convicted by a trial court under Section 8 of POCSO and sentenced to three years.
The apex court will examine this issue after two weeks.