After outrage over Bombay HC judgment concerning definition of sexual assault, child rights body urges State to file review and protect victim

Published : January 25, 2021 19:31 IST

Priyank Kanoongo, NCPCR chief. Photo: Twitter

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked the Maharashtra Government to urgently appeal a recent Bombay High Court judgment on the conviction of a man for child sexual abuse. The single-judge verdict from the court’s Nagpur Bench had generated controversy as it defined groping/sexual assault to a minor only if there was "skin-to-skin" contact, and excludes mere touching or pressing of the clothed body.

The apex child rights body’s chief of the country wrote to the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra about the matter. NCPCR Chairperson Priyank Kanoongo said the words "skin-to-skin with sexual intention without penetration" seems derogatory to the minor victim and the comment thus needs to be reviewed.

Kanoongo noted that the identity of the victim had been disclosed and the Commission therefore requests the State initiate the needful.

"Therefore, in view of the above and considering the seriousness of the issue, the commission being the monitoring body under section 44 of the POCSO Act, 2012 requests you to take necessary steps in the matter and file an urgent appeal against the aforesaid impugned judgment of the Hon''ble High Court … You are requested to provide details of the minor victim (maintaining strict confidentiality) so that the commission can provide help such as legal aid etc. in the best interest of the child,"

In its judgment on January 19, the bench had said that under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POSCO), touching a minor girl’s breast without removal of her top would not be categoried as sexual assault, but be ‘outraging the modesty of a woman’ to dealt with under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code. It thus overturned a trial court’s verdict finding the accused guilty under POSCO, and effectively reduced his punishment from a maximum of years to just one year of rigorous imprisonment.

The criminal appeal petition before the bench was filed by a man, who had been convicted for sexually assaulting a minor by pressing a private part and partially stripping her.