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SC appoints amicus curiae in case filed against Bombay HC's order acquitting man under POCSO

ANI | Updated: Aug 06, 2021 20:58 IST

New Delhi [India], August 6 (ANI): Supreme Court on Friday asked senior advocate Siddharth Dave to assist it as amicus curiae in a case where the Bombay High Court acquitted a man accused of sexually assaulting a minor stating that "groping a minor's breast without "skin to skin contact" cannot be termed as sexual assault as defined under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
A Bench of Justice UU Lalit and Justice Ajay Rastogi said that looking at the gravity of the controversy as this is a case where the accused cannot go unrepresented, it needs to appoint amicus curiae to assist it.
The apex court has now posted the matter for disposal on August 24.
On January 27, the top court had stayed the operation of the January 19 verdict of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court after Attorney General KK Venugopal had mentioned the matter before it and said the order is "very disturbing" and will set a "dangerous precedent".
The apex court had also issued notice to the Maharashtra government and the convict and permitted the AG to file an appeal against the January 19 verdict of the High Court.
Attorney General, National Commission of Women, State of Maharashtra, Youth Bar Association of India have challenged the High Court order in the apex court stating that such observations would have a wide impact on the entire society and public at large.
Seeking to set aside the High Court order the appeals said that the observations made by the High Court were unwarranted and concern the modesty of a girl child. One of the pleas pointed out that while passing the impugned judgment, the Single Judge recorded the name of the victim child. As per law, the names of victims of certain offences can not be published.

The pleas also sought to stay on the verdict as interim relief.
"Single Judge had made various observations, concerning the modesty of a girl child, which is not only derogatory and defamatory but the same is also in utter disregard to the applicable laws," Association's appeal added.
Justice Pushpa Ganediwala of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court, while passing judgement on January 19, had held that there must be "skin to skin contact with sexual intent" for an act to be considered sexual assault. Mere groping will not fall under the definition of sexual assault, the judge said.
The judge modified the order of a sessions court, which had held a 39-year-old man guilty of sexual sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl and sentenced him to three years of imprisonment.
As per the prosecution and the minor victim's testimony in court, in December 2016, the accused had taken the girl to his house in Nagpur on the pretext of giving her something to eat and then gripped her breast and attempted to remove her clothes.
However, the High Court said since he groped her without removing her clothes, the offence cannot be termed as sexual assault and, instead, constitutes the offence of outraging a woman's modesty under IPC section 354.
The High Court acquitted him under the POCSO Act while upholding his conviction under IPC section 354. Section 354 entails a minimum sentence of imprisonment for one year, sexual assault under the POCSO Act entails minimum imprisonment of three years. (ANI)