Simply put, now the potential offenders can grope a minor girl as long as they make sure that her top is on and they will not be penalised for sexual assault, as technically mere groping without skin-to-skin contact does not constitute sexual assault.
The recent ruling by Bombay High Court has sent many into questioning the veracity of the ruling. There must be physical contact - skin to skin contact with sexual intent and mere groping would not amount to sexual assault, ruled the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court recently.
The judge was faced with a criminal appeal filed by the man, who was convicted for sexually assaulting a minor girl. As per the prosecution, the man pressed the girl's chest and partially stripped her. He had taken the victim to his house under the pretext of offering her a guava. When the girl's mother reached the spot, she found her daughter crying, following which an FIR was lodged.
The HC opined that mere touching of a minor's chest would not amount to sexual assault by itself unless the girl's top was removed or the accused slid his hand within her under garment. "Admittedly, it is not the case of the prosecution that the accused removed her top and pressed her breast. As such, there is no direct physical contact i.e. skin-to-skin with sexual intent without penetration," said the female judge Justice Pushpa Ganediwala. He further held that "stricter proof and serious allegations" are required considering the stringent nature of the punishment provided for the offence of sexual assault.
The judge further held that, "The act of pressing the breast of a child aged 12 years, in the absence of any specific detail as to whether the top was removed or whether he inserted his hand inside her top and pressed her breast, would not fall under the definition of 'sexual assault'. It would certainly fall within the definition of Section 354 of the IPC, which penalises outraging the modesty of a woman."
As per Section 354 of the IPC whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to five years.
What? Is the judgement for real?
No amount of reactions could sum up the shock and disbelief that the ruling invited. While some were plain shocked, others simply disgusted. Technically speaking, the judgement could be used as a precedence to grope a woman without being held liable under stringent laws.
"Did our esteemed judiciary get the concept of sexual assault wrong altogether?" so went one of the furious social media posts.
"If groping without skin-to-skin contact is not sexual assault, then what is it?" questioned another user.