India top court strikes down only ‘skin-to-skin contact’ sexual abuse order
New Delhi, Nov 18 (EFE).- The top court of India Thursday struck down a controversial lower court ruling that cleared a man of charges related to sexual abuse of a minor because there was no skin-to-skin contact with the victim.
“Restricting (sexual assault) to skin-to-skin would not only be a narrow and pedantic interpretation, but will also lead to absurd interpretation of the provision,” said a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India.
The top court ruling came in response to an order by the Bombay High Court in January this year.
Judge Pushpa Ganediwala had insisted that groping a child without skin-to-skin contact would amount to molestation but not the graver offense of sexual assault under Indian laws related to child sexual abuse.
India’s top government lawyer, the National Commission for Women, and the western state of Maharashtra had appealed against the controversial order of the Bombay High Court.
The court acquitted the 39-year-old accused of sexual assault charges after he allegedly groped a 12-year-old girl.
It said the accused was guilty of only “molestation” under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offenses (POCSO) act.
Judge Ganediwala ruled that groping without removing the top was not a sexual assault as per the Indian penal code since there was no skin-to-skin contact.
The female judge ruled that the man’s action would invite the lesser charge of molestation.
But the top overruled the order, saying a person could use gloves to grope and would not get convicted by that interpretation of the law.
“That will be an absurd situation,” the Supreme Court said.
“(The) most important ingredient is the sexual intent and not the skin-to-skin contact of the child. Sexual intent is a question of fact which is to be determined from the attendant circumstances.”
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has registered 128,531 crimes against children in 2020, about 47,000 of them under the POCSO act.
India tightened its legislation against sex crimes in 2012 after the brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman triggered global outrage. EFE