The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) denounces the judgement of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court which has acquitted an accusedof the charge of sexual assault of a 12 year old girl under Section 7 of POCSO by saying that since there was noskin to skin contact with sexual intent no case was made out. The high court overruled the sentence of 3 years given by the trial court.
The young child was lured by the 39year old accused to his house on the pretext that he would give her a guava.She was then taken by the accused to a room on the first floor of his house and the accused started fondling her breasts and tried to remove her salwar obviously with the intention of raping her.When the girlstarted shouting, the accused covered her mouth with his hand and then left the room after locking the door from the outside.A neighbour heard the girl'sshouts and informed the girl's mother who found her weeping in this locked room.Though an offence of attempt to rape was made out, the accused was not charged with this.
The accused was only charged with kidnapping, wrongful confinement and molestation under S354 IPC, and non-penetrative sexual assault under Section 8 of POSCO only.Section 7 of POCSO describes non-penetrative sexual assault and says that whoever, with sexual intent, touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of a child or makes the child perform the same acts with the person involved or does any other act which involves physical contact with sexual intent without penetration commits sexual assault.S8 of POSCO prescribes a punishment of 3 to 5 years and with fine.It is obvious even to lay person that the crime committed by the accused falls squarely within the definition of sexual assault as defined in Section 7.Nowhere does the section specify that the touching with sexual intent has to be a skin to skin contact.In any case the definition is wide enough to cover all other acts of touching with sexual intent.
The judge's reasoning is thus deeply flawed. The judge also fails to understand the serious nature of the act from the perspective of the victim of sexual assault.She seems to have seen it just as a minor crime for which a punishment of 3 years was very harsh and disproportionate.However the vulnerable child who was subjected to this act of abuse and violence was clearly traumatized by this experience.
AIDWA and others have struggled and campaigned for several years for a law which recognises the effect and seriousness of sexual assault for those who are subjected to it. However though the law has been amended in many important aspects the patriarchal mindset of those applying the law also needs to change. Sexual assault is a grave act of violence and violates the bodily integrity of a women.AIDWA demands that the Government of Maharashtra file an appeal against this atrocious judgement.