'Purpose of law cannot be to allow offender to escape meshes of law', says SC quashing 'skin-to-skin' judgment of Bombay HC

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the Bombay high court verdict which had held that no offence of sexual assault under the Pocso Act is made out if there is no direct skin-to-skin contact between an accused and victim.
A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit set aside the high court judgement, and said the most important ingredient of constituting sexual assault is sexual intent and not skin-to-skin with the child.
The high court had held that skin-to-skin contact is essential for Pocso offence and convicted two accused and two-year jail terms who had indecently touched the body of a minor.
The top court noted that giving a narrow meaning of physical contact to confine it to skin-to-skin contact would defeat the purpose of Pocso Act and it cannot be accepted. "Purpose of the law cannot be to allow the offender to escape the meshes of the law," the apex court said.

"We have held that when the legislature has expressed clear intention, the courts cannot create ambiguity in the provision. It is right that courts cannot be overzealous in creating ambiguity," the bench, also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Bela M Trivedi, said.
The top court, which was hearing separate appeals of Attorney General and the National Commission for women (NCW), had on January 27 stayed the order which had acquitted a man under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act saying groping a minor's breast without 'skin to skin contact' cannot be termed as sexual assault .
The sessions court had sentenced the man to three years of imprisonment for the offences under the POCSO Act as also under IPC section 354. The sentences were to run concurrently.
The high court, however, acquitted him under the POCSO Act while upholding his conviction under IPC section 354.
The court passed the order on an appeal filed by attorney general K K Venugopal who contended that HC's verdict was outrageous and pleaded the court to set it aside.
The AG had contended that the HC verdict could have huge repercussions on 43,000 Pocso cases registered every year.
Meanwhile, it is the second time in the history of SC that the Attorney General filed an appeal against the HC order.
Attorney General had first in 1985 filed appeal against Rajasthan HC verdict in regard to execution of death sentence by public hanging as ordered by HC.
(With inputs from agencies)

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