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SC notice on pleas filed by NCW, Maha govt challenging Nagpur Bench's 'skin to skin contact' verdict

ANI | Updated: Feb 10, 2021 14:42 IST

New Delhi [India], February 10 (ANI): The Supreme Court has issued notices on pleas filed by the National Commission for Women (NCW) and the Maharashtra government, challenging the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court order where it had acquitted an accused saying 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.
The Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde issued notice to the convict and sought his response on the pleas of the NCW and Maharashtra.
The Bench, however, refused to hear the plea filed by Bharatiya Stree Shakti and allowed it to withdraw the plea.
Earlier, the top court had stayed the High Court's acquittal order of the convict after Attorney General KK Venugopal mentioned the matter before the CJI and called the order 'very disturbing' and would set a 'dangerous precedent'.
Attorney General for India, KK Venugopal, National Commission of Women, State of Maharashtra, Youth Bar Association of India, and Bharatiya Stree Shakti (NGO) 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 unwarranted and concerned the modesty of a girl child.
One of the pleas also stated that while passing the impugned judgment, the Single Judge recorded the name of the victim child. As per the law, the names of victims of certain offences can not be published.

The pleas further sought a stay on the verdict as interim relief.
"Single Judge had made various observations, concerning the modesty of a girl child, which are not only derogatory and defamatory but the same are 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)