Does groping a minor's breasts over her clothes make it any lesser an offence than groping her without clothes?
In a controversial ruling on 24th January, the Bombay High Court said that groping a minor's breast without skin-to-skin touch doesn't fall under the definition of ‘sexual assault’ under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act also known as the POCSO act. While acknowledging that such an act INDEED IS AN OFFENCE, a sitting judge of the Nagpur bench said it only amounts to molestation under the Indian Penal Code.
These observations came in a hearing of an appeal filed by a man against his conviction under POCSO charges by a sessions court after he was accused of groping a minor's breasts.
Now sexual assault under POSCO is a graver offence than outraging a woman’s modesty under Section 354 of the IPC, but while observing that there was no “specific detail” as to whether the minor’s top was removed and whether there was any skin-to-skin contact or not, Justice Puspha Ganediwala of the Bombay High Court acquitted the appellant off POCSO saying that stringent punishments require stronger allegations and proof.
Although the court upheld the conviction of the appellant under Section 354, the ruling almost immediately drew a lot of outrage on social media from celebrities and other citizens alike. While some pointed to the irony in the fact that the judgment came on the same day that is observed as the National Girl Child's Day, others are questioning if it's a fair deduction of the law.
Doesn't drawing distinction between the gravity of groping a minor's breast with clothes and without clothes defeat the whole intention of the POCSO act?
Host and Producer: Shorbori Purkayastha
Guests: Seema Misra, a lawyer practising in the district and high court who's appeared in PoCso-related cases for both victim and accused
Producer: Shelly Walia
Music: Big Bang Fuzz
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