Supreme Court on skin to skin verdict: While hearing the petition against the controversial judgement by the Bombay High Court, which suggested that the offence will not be registered under the POCSO Act until there is a ‘skin-to-skin’ contact, the Supreme Court reversed this decision and called it “absurd”.
On November 18, the bench comprising of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit, Justice Bela M Trivedi and Justice S Ravindra Bhat announced its verdict to appeal filed by the Attorney General of India, National Commission for Women and the State of Maharashtra with respect to the Bombay HC verdict from earlier this year.
Reading out the verdict, Justice Bela M Trivedi said that the restriction of Section 7 of the POCSO act to physical touch is “absurd” and it destroys the intent of the act which is supposed to protect children from any sexual offence.
The Bombay High Court had restricted the meaning of expressions like ‘touch and physical contact’ under section 7 of the POCSO Act to “skin to skin contact”. The Supreme court judgement called this narrow “interpretation” pedantic in nature because then it would mean that wearing gloves or any other material while groping is not a crime under the Act.
The court went by the dictionary meaning of “touch” or “physical contact” as there is no meaning described in the Act. According to the court, it considers any act of touch with “sexual intention” as an offence.
Dismissing the High court judgement, the court also said that when the meaning of such terms is clearly established by the legislation then there is no reason for the courts to create “ambiguity”.
“…the reasoning of the High Court insensitively trivialised, legitimised and normalised behaviour which undermines the dignity of children. The High Court erred in coming to such a conclusion,” said Justice Bhat.
In the case, the Attorney General was represented by senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra.
The hearing was based on the judgment by the High Court’s Nagpur Bench who acquitted an accused saying that the groping of the breast of the survivor was done “over the clothes” and that it did not come under Section 8 of the POCSO Act.
The Supreme Court is also considering another plea by the State of Maharashtra on another controversial statement by the Bombay High Court which stated that opening the zipper of a minor survivor’s pant was not an act of “sexual assault”. Both the judgements were passed by Justice Pushpa Ganediwala of Bombay High Court.
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