A recent verdict by the Bombay High Court (HC) has ruled that groping without skin-to-skin contact is not sexual assault. The Nagpur Bench of the Court stated that the particular act involving a minor would not amount to sexual assault if the accused did not take down the top of the minor or put his hands under her garment.
Verdict by Bombay High Court, the Judge’s statement:
Justice Pushpa Virendra Ganediwala said: “Evidently, it is not the case of the prosecution that the appellant removed her top and pressed her breast. The punishment provided for the offense of ‘sexual assault’ is imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine. Considering the stringent nature of punishment provided for the offense, in the opinion of this Court, stricter proof and serious allegations are required.”
She continued, “The act of pressing the breast of a child aged 12 years, in the absence of any specific detail as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hand inside her top and pressed her breast, would not fall under the definition of ‘sexual assault’,” Justice Ganediwala observed, before adding, “it would certainly fall within the definition of section 354 of the IPC, which penalizes outraging the modesty of a woman.”
Case that led to the verdict by Bombay High Court:
The case pertained to a matter from 2016 where the claimant in the current case was accused of taking the minor victim, aged around 12 years, to his house under the pretext of giving her guava and then proceeded to press her breast and attempted to remove her salwar.
Fortunately, the victim’s mother reached the spot at the right time and rescued her daughter.
The Bombay High Court verdict noted that according to the mother, she was told by her neighbor that the accused took her daughter to his house.
However, when she asked him about the whereabouts of her daughter, he denied that she was at his house.
The victim said, “PW-1 (mother) searched for her daughter on the ground floor, and then she went up to the first floor. The room was bolted from outside. She opened it and found her daughter. Her daughter was crying. She took out her daughter from that room and her daughter narrated the incident that on the pretext of giving guava to her, the accused brought her to his house and pressed her breast and when he tried to remove her nicker. Thereafter he went out, after bolting the room from outside.”
An FIR was registered against the appellant (accused) following the incident, under Sections 354, 363, and 342 of the IPC and under Section 8 of the POCSO Act. The Special Court in Nagpur, after a charge-sheet was filed by the Police, framed charges against the accused under Sections 361, 354, 342, and 309 of the IPC and under Section 8 of the POCSO Act. The accused was ultimately convicted of the charges against him but was acquitted of section 309 (suicide) charges against him.
The victim also confirmed all the series of events.
The Bombay High Court held that “the accused is acquitted under Section 8 of the POCSO Act and convicted under minor offense u/s 354 of IPC and sentenced him to undergo R.I. for one year and to pay fine of Rs.500/-, in default of fine to suffer R.I. for one month. The sentence for the offense punishable under Section 342 of the Indian Penal Code i.e. six months and fine of Rs.500/-, in default to suffer R.I. for one month, is maintained.”