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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Supreme Court of India, while hearing two separate appeals filed by the Attorney General of India and the National Commission for Women, set aside the controversial ‘skin to skin’ judgement of the Bombay High Court.
  • The Apex Court held that restricting the meaning of groping to mean only touching the naked breasts of a child would frustrate the objective of the legislation.
  • This order has come after the January 27 order, wherein the apex court had stayed the operation of the High Court judgement.

PROCEEDINGS

  • A 3-judge Bench comprising of Justice UU Lalit, Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Bela M Trivedi was hearing the appeals filed by the Attorney General of India and the National Commission for Women, against the controversial ‘skin to skin’ judgement of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court.
  • The High Court in its judgement, had acquitted a person accused under the POCSO Act for groping the breasts of a child, stating that groping of the breasts of a minor girl over her clothes would not amount to the offence of 'sexual assault' under Section 8 of POCSO, thus giving the concept of ‘skin to skin contact’ for sexual assault.
  • Calling out the preposterousness of the judgement and the negative impact which it would have on the 43,000 odd POCSO cases, appeals were filed against the judgement in the Apex Court.
  • On January 27, a Bench headed by the then CJI SA Bobde stayed the operation of the judgement to the extent of the acquittal given with reference to Section 8 of POCSO Act.
  • The Apex Court took up the appeal and after hearing the parties, gave a judgement on November 18, 2021.
  • Justice Bela Trivedi observed that the interpretation made by the High Court was very restrictive and that it would defeat the intent of the legislation. It was also observed that the interpretation of a word should be made in a manner which serves the objectives which the statute seeks to achieve.
  • The Court also observed that since the words ‘touch’ or ‘physical contact’ were not defined in the Act, the dictionary meanings of the same were to be considered. It was stated that an act of touch, if done with sexual intent, would be an offence and that the most important ingredient in the case is the sexual intent and not the skin-to-skin contact of the child.
  • Apart from that, it was also observed that where the legislature has specified its intent, the courts cannot create any ambiguity in the provisions.

COURT’S ORDER

  • On the basis of the pleadings of the AG, the Amicus Curiae and other counsels, the Apex Court reversed the judgement of the Bombay High Court and held that groping is necessary to constitute sexual assault and that skin-to-skin contact is not necessary.

QUESTIONS

  • Do you agree with the court’s order?
  • What is the full form of the POCSO Act?

Let us know your views on the issue in the comment section below!

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