Supreme Court sets aside POCSO 'skin to skin' judgment of Bombay High Court
Earlier in January, the Bombay High Court stated that squeezing a 12-year-old child's breast without removing her garments falls under the definition of outraging a woman's modesty under Section 354 of IPC and not sexual assault under the POCSO.
The Supreme Court set aside a judgment of the Bombay High Court that held that "skin-to-skin" contact was necessary for the offence of sexual assault under POCSO. A bench of Justices UU Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat, and Bela Trivedi ruled that limiting the definition of "touch" to "skin-to-skin" contact would result in a "narrow and ludicrous construction" and undermine the Act's aim, which was established to protect minors from sexual assaults.
The court stated that touching through clothing or a sheet with sexual intent falls under the concept of POCSO. However, courts should not be excessive in looking for ambiguity in clear phrases. It went on to say that narrow pedantic interpretations that would contradict the aim of the rules are not permitted. Purpose of the law cannot be to allow the offender to escape the meshes of the law, the apex court added.
The Bombay High Court held on January 19 that squeezing a 12-year-old child's breast without removing her garments falls under the definition of outraging a woman's modesty under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and not sexual assault under the POCSO. As a result, it had acquitted a man of an infraction under Section 7 of the POCSO on the grounds that the victim was dressed and there was no "skin-to-skin" contact.