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Skin-to-skin contact: SC takes into notice NCW plea against Bombay HC verdict

Wednesday, 10 February 2021 (18:19 IST)
New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a petition filed by the National Commission of Women against a recent Bombay High Court verdict l, which stated that groping of minor cannot be considered as a sexual assault if there was no "skin-to-skin contact".
A bench of Apex Court, headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, issued a notice to Maharashtra government over the petition.During the hearing, the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, questioned the need of the petition, when the Supreme Court had itself stayed the judgement of the Bombay HC.
To this, the NCW, represented by senior advocate Geeta Luthra, told the Apex Court that as per the rules, the commission is bound to approach the court.The NCW, in its petition, termed the judgement as "narrow interpretation" and claimed that it can have a cascading effect over the safety of minors and women.
"....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 interests of women,” the petition said.
The Nagpur bench of Bombay HC had recently overturned a session court's judgement, which found a 39-year-old man guilty for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old minor under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The HC court said that since the minor was groped without "skin-to-skin contact", the crime cannot fall under the POCSO Act, but under Section 354 of IPC (outraging the modesty of a woman).The maximum punishment under POCSO is three years, while it's one year under IPC Section 354.

The order received brickbats from different quarters, with the Apex Court staying the verdict, while Attorney General K K Venugopal warned that the judgement can set a "dangerous precedent".(UNI)

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