A controversial Bombay Supreme Court order in a case over alleged sexual assault of a minor would mean that “one can wear a surgical glove and exploit a child and escape freely,” Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court today. Multiple organizations, including the state of Maharashtra and the National Women’s Commission, as well as the Attorney General, have challenged the order, claiming it would “set a dangerous precedent for society”.
In its ruling of January 19, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court said that groping a minor without “skin-to-skin contact” does not constitute sexual assault under POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses).
“Since the man groped the child without taking her clothes off, the crime cannot be classed as sexual assault,” said a single judge Pushpa Ganediwala, as he acquitted a 39-year-old man in a case of allegedly assaulting a 12-year-old. year old girl.
Sexual assault carries a minimum prison sentence of three years under POCSO. But the court convicted him on charges of insulting a woman’s modesty under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, which carries a minimum jail term of one year.
“The Bombay Supreme Court order will set a precedent. This will have far-reaching implications,” said Mr Venugopal, adding: “This would mean someone can wear a surgical glove and exploit a child and get away with no qualms.” .
The accused, he said, had tried to strip the child and even then bail was granted.
“This would set a precedent for the magistrates in Maharashtra,” he added, pointing out that 43,000 offenses were registered under POCSO in the past year.
On January 27, the Supreme Court had frozen the Bombay Supreme Court order after the Attorney General mentioned it to the court and allowed it to appeal.
At the latest hearing, the highest court had said “given the gravity of the controversy, this is a case in which the accused cannot remain unrepresented”.
“No one has appeared at the hearing today to represent the accused. The accused must be represented in the case,” the court said today, ordering the Supreme Court Legal Service to provide an attorney.
The next hearing will take place on September 14.