The Nagpur bench of Bombay HC had sparked outrage on January 19 by acquitting the accused under Section 8 of the Pocso Act, while maintaining his conviction for outraging the modesty of the girl under IPC’s Section 354. In February last year, a Nagpur trial court had sentenced the man to three years imprisonment under Pocso Act as also under Section 354 of IPC.
The Supreme Court has rightly stayed the HC judgment which many found disturbing and drew sharp protest from several child rights activists. This underlines again the crying need for sensitisation of all levels of the justice system to sexual harassment issues.
Attorney general KKVenugopal termed the order “unprecedented”. “It is a very disturbing judgment that sets a new rule that in the absence of skin-to-skin contact, that is groping a child without removing her clothes, would not amount to sexual assault under… the Pocso Act. It sets a dangerous precedent,” he said.
After hearing the AG, a bench of CJI S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said, “We permit the AG to file a petition against the judgment. In the meantime, we stay the acquittal of the accused.”