The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice in a plea filed by the National Commission for Women (NCW) challenging the Bombay High Court judgment passed by Justice Pushpa Ganediwala, wherein she held that there must be “skin to skin contact with sexual intent” for an act to be considered sexual assault.
The Bombay High Court had held that pressing the breast of a 12-year-old child without removing her top will not fall within the definition of ‘sexual assault’ under Section 7 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).
A three-judge bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian issued the notice.
The petitioner has stated that it is aggrieved by the HC order, and the perverse interpretation adopted by the High Court that the term ‘physical contact’ in Section 7, POCSO Act means only ‘skin to skin touch’.
It has further been argued, “If such a perverse interpretation of physical contact is allowed, it will adversely impact the basic rights of women, who are victims of sexual offences in the Society and will undermine the beneficial statutory safeguards prescribed under various legislations aimed at protecting the interest of women.”
The petition thus raises the following substantial questions of law of great public importance for consideration of the ApexCourt:
1. Whether to constitute an offence under Section 7 of the POCSO Act, the only requirement is to touch a child with sexual intent?
2. Whether the impugned order has far reaching ramifications/repercussions for women, exposing them to a desensitized Society?
The petitioner has further submitted that such a narrow interpretation adopted in the impugned order sets a dangerous precedent, which would have a cascading effect on the safety of women and children.
Earlier, the Apex Court had stayed the acquittal of the accused on the matter after it was mentioned by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal.
The bench dismissed another petition filed by Bharatiya Stree Shakti challenging the same order while stating that the petitioner did not have locus in the present case.