The Supreme Court on 18 November quashed the Bombay High Court verdict which had held that no offence of sexual assault under the Pocso Act is made out if there is no direct skin-to-skin contact between an accused and victim.
A bench headed by Justice UU Lalit set aside the high court judgement, and said the most important ingredient of constituting sexual assault is sexual intent and not skin-to-skin with the child. Purpose of the law cannot be to allow the offender to escape the meshes of the law, the apex court said.
“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, also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi, said.
The top court, which was hearing separate appeals of Attorney General and the National Commission for women (NCW), had on 27 January stayed the order which had acquitted a man under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act saying groping a minor’s breast without ‘skin to skin contact’ cannot be termed as sexual assault .
The sessions court had sentenced the man to three years of imprisonment for the offences under the Pocso Act as under IPC section 354. The sentences were to run concurrently. The high court, however, acquitted him under the Pocso Act while upholding his conviction under IPC section 354.
The High Court had modified the order of a sessions court, which had sentenced the 39-year-old man to three years of imprisonment for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl in 2016. According to the complaint lodged by the girl’s mother, the man pressed the girl’s breast and attempted to remove her salwar. The mother found the girl in the man’s house.