A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking leave to appeal against the recent Bombay High Court judgment by which a convict was acquitted of charges under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act on the ground of lack of direct physical contact with a minor victim.
In its judgment dated January 19, the Nagpur Bench of the High Court had held that the act of pressing the breast of a child aged 12 years without removing her top will not fall within the definition of ‘sexual assault’ under Section 7 of the POCSO Act.
“Admittedly, it is not the case of the prosecution that the appellant removed her top and pressed her breast. As such, there is no direct physical contact i.e. skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration”, the Court had stated in its judgment.
The plea filed by Youth Bar Association of India calls into question the unwarranted remarks made by the High Court on the modesty of a girl child while rendering its January 19 judgment in Satish v. State of Maharashtra.
It is pointed out that the judgment records the name of the victim in para 12, which is against the spirit of Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code. This provision prohibits the publication of the name of victims of sexual offences.
Further, the observation that “there is no direct physical contact i.e., skin to skin with sexual intent without penetration” – which eventually led to the acquittal of the convict under Section 7 of the POCSO Act – “would lead to a dastardly situation”, the plea contends.
The plea further states,
“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.”
On these grounds, the petitioner association has sought leave to appeal against the High Court’s judgment. As interim relief, a stay on the judgment is prayed for.
The judgment of the Bombay High Court had sparked a furore on social media, prompting the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to urge the Maharashtra government to challenge the verdict.