The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the Bombay High Court judgment that held that â€œskin-to-skinâ€ contact was necessary for the offence of sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
Calling it a “narrow interpretation of the law”, the court set aside a Bombay High Court judgement that had acquitted a man saying, groping a minor’s breast without ‘skin to skin contact’ can’t be termed as sexual assault under POCSO.
A Bench headed by Justice UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi held that the ingredient of the offence of â€˜sexual assaultâ€™ under POCSO is sexual intent and skin to skin contact in such incidents is not relevant.
â€œThe most important ingredient of for constituting the offence of sexual assault is sexual intent and not skin to skin contact with the child. Construction of a rule should give effect to rule rather than destroying it. The intention of legislature cannot be given effect to unless wider interpretation is given,â€ the Court said.
The apex court further said that restricting the meaning of â€œtouchâ€ to â€œskin-to-skinâ€ contact would lead to â€œnarrow and absurd interpretationâ€ and destroy the intent of the Act, which was enacted to protect children from sexual offences.
The Bombay High Court had on January 19 ruled that pressing the breast of a 12-year-old child without removing her clothes will only fall within the definition of outraging the modesty of a woman under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and not sexual assault under the POCSO. It had, therefore, acquitted a man for an offence under Section 7 of POCSO on the ground that the victim was clothed and there was no â€œskin-to-skinâ€ contact.