The Attorney General of India, K.K. Venugopal, described the Bombay High Court’s ruling that “skin-to-skin” contact is required to constitute sexual assault under the POCSO Act as “outrageous.” The Attorney General condemned the decision, claiming that a person wearing surgical gloves can feel a woman’s entire body and avoid prosecution.
A single judge bench of Justice Pushpa V. Ganediwala of the Bombay High Court’s Nagpur Bench had previously decided that the components of Section 7 of the POCSO Act could not be established stricto sensu because there was no “skin-to-skin contact” between the offender and the victim.
“Whoever, with sexual intent, touches the vagina, penis, anus, or breast of the child, or causes the child to touch the vagina, penis, anus, or breast of such person or any other person, or does any other act with sexual intent that involves physical contact without penetration, is said to commit sexual assault,” as per section 7 of the act.
The Attorney General testified on Tuesday before a bench consisting of Justices U.U. Lalit and Ajay Rastogi that the judgement is “outrageous” in terms of POCSO. The attorney general contended that because the high court judge stated that skin-to-skin contact is essential, a person wearing medical gloves and inappropriately caressing a woman would be acquitted. He underlined that there was a girl child involved in this situation. He claimed the male grabbed the girl by the breast and pulled her salwar down. The mother hurried to her daughter’s aid and then filed a report after hearing her scream.
The AG, while criticising the high court order, stated that it will serve as a precedent for magistrates in Maharashtra, adding that there were 43,000 POCSO offences in the previous year. He went on to say that touching a woman’s breast carries a minimum sentence of three years in prison. The high court overturned a session court’s sentence of three years in jail for a 39-year-old man for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.
Service of the show cause notice is complete in all proceedings, according to the bench. However, no one appeared on the accused’s side. So today, a division bench consisting of Justice UU Lalit and Justice Ajay Rastogi heard the case and directed the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee to select an empanelled Senior Advocate to defend the accused. Now the matter is listed for further hearing on 14 September, 2021.