A recent judgment of the Bombay High Court has taken social media by storm, with netizens raging over the regressive outlook of the court. The case, Satish v State of Maharashtra, revolved around the fact that a 12-year girl was assaulted and groped, yet the Bombay High Court held that “in the absence of any specific detail as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hand inside top and pressed her breast, would not fall in the definition of ‘sexual assault.” This ruling came even after precedents from various other High Courts (in the case of Jagar Singh v State of Himachal Pradesh), including the Bombay High Court ruling that Sexual Assault under Section 7 of POCSO Act, need not be skin to skin, and even the act of touching a minor with sexual intent in their private area would attract the penalty under Section 7.
Section 7 and the outrage
This case saw the relevancy of the POCSO being put into question. It has been stated that skin-to-skin touch is necessary for constituting an offence under Section 7 of the POCSO Act. In the present scenario, groping of child’s breast has not been considered an offence under Section 7.
Section 7 constitutes that, touching of vagina, breasts or any such private area with “sexual intent” is punishable. However, in this case a new concept of skin-to-skin touch has emerged.
It is also to be noted that, the offence has been held punishable under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, that is, outraging the modesty of a woman. However, questions are now being raised as to whether it is correct to negate the entire spirit of the POCSO Act.
Questions such as, if the POCSO Act was enacted to safeguard the rights of children specifically, why is the act is not being relied upon in such situations? Section 7 of POCSO provides for rigorous punishment and gives preference to the rights of children. However, keeping reliance on IPC is making this act non-reliable for such cases. Both IPC and POCSO have their own validities and importance. Overlapping of the laws in ways that degrade the other shall not be fruitful for anyone.
Due to extreme public outrage, and the above mentioned valid arguments the Supreme Court on Sunday stayed the Bombay High Court’s order.
It is important to create a threat in the minds of criminals to make the laws stringent. The relevancy of the laws has to be maintained by the courts, rather than dragging other laws in between. Section 6 and 7 of POCSO are alone relevant and compatible of punishing offenders in scenarios like the present one. It will be awaited to see the further decision of the Supreme Court because the decision here will make a huge difference for future references. This provision is about the safety of children, it cannot be neglected the way it has been done, in this judgement.
Reported by – Sejal Makkad