Holding a Minor Girl’s Hands & Opening the Zip of Pants, not “Sexual Assault” under the POCSO: Bombay HC

Holding a minor girl’s hands & opening the zip of pants, not “sexual assault” under the POCSO: Bombay HC

The act of holding a minor girl’s hands and opening the zip of pants will not come under the definition of “sexual assault” under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, observed the Bombay High Court (Nagpur Bench) in a criminal appeal filed against the conviction and sentence awarded to a 50 year old man for molesting a 5 year old girl.

Though, the bench held that such acts would amount to “sexual harassment” under Section 354-A (1) (i) of the IPC

Brief Facts of the Case

The case was registered on the basis of the complaint lodged by the mother of the girl, who said that she saw the accused, whose pants zip was opened, holding the hands of her daughter. She further testified that her daughter informed her that appellant/accused removed his penis from the pant and asked her to come to the bed for sleeping.

 Order of the Sessions Court

As the offence was committed against a child aged below 12 years, the Court held it to be “aggravated sexual assault” punishable under Section 10 of POCSO and sentenced him to 5 years rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs. 25,000 with a default simple imprisonment for 6 months.

Section 7 of the POCSO             

“Sexual assault – Whoever, with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person, or does any other Act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration is said to commit sexual assault”.

Observation of the HC

The Court noted that according the definition of ‘sexual assault’, ‘physical contact with sexual intent without penetration’ is essential ingredient for the offence.

Since no actual touching of the private parts of the body happened in the case, the High Court considered if the act will come under the ambit of the the third part of the definition- “any other Act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration”.

The Court held that the words “any other act” should be interpreted ejusdem generis with the beginning portion of the definition (Ejusdem generis is a principle of statutory interpretation which says that meaning of general words which follow a specific word is limited by the meaning of the special words).

Considering this, the Court noted:

“The acts of ‘holding the hands of the prosecutrix’, or ‘opened zip of the pant’ as has been allegedly witnessed by PW-1, in the opinion of this Court, does not fit in the definition of ‘sexual assault'”

As per POCSO, ‘sexual assault’, when committed against a child aged less than 12 years, it will become ‘aggravated sexual assault’ under Section 9, which is punishable under Section 10.

Advertisement

Considering the fact that the offence of ‘aggravated sexual assault’ has a minimum sentence of five years imprisonment, the court said that allegations are not sufficient to fix criminal liability on the accused for that offence under Section 10 POCSO.

“The appellant/accused is prosecuted for the charge of ‘aggravated sexual assault’. As per the definition of ‘sexual assault’,a ‘physical contact with sexual intent without penetration’ is essential ingredient for the offence. The definition starts with the words – “Whoever with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis,anus or breast of such person or any other person or does any other act with sexual intent……’ The words ‘any other act’ encompasses within itself, the nature of the acts which are similar to the acts which have been specifically mentioned in the definition on the premise of the principle of ‘ejusdem generis.’ The act should be of the same nature or closure to that. The acts of ‘holding the hands of the prosecutrix’, or ‘opened zip of the pant’ as has been allegedly witnessed by PW-1, in the opinion of this Court, does not fit in the definition of ‘sexual assault'”.

The Court though held that the offence of sexual harassment under Section 354A (1)(i), which deals with “physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures”, is attracted in the case.

Thus, the conviction under Sections 8, 10 and 12 of POCSO Act was set aside and the accused was found guilty under Section 354A(1)(i) IPC, which carries a maximum imprisonment of 3 years.

The Court said that the 5 months imprisonment previously underwent by the accused was sufficient punishment for the offence.

“Considering the nature of the act, which could be established by the prosecution and considering the punishment provided for the aforesaid crimes, in the opinion of this Court, the imprisonment which he has already undergone would serve the purpose”, the court said.

Case Name: Libnus v State of Maharahstra

Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 445 OF 2020

Coram: Justice Pushpa Ganediwala

Holding a minor girl’s hands & opening the zip of pants, not “sexual assault” under the POCSO: Bombay HC

Also Read: Amazon Found Guilty Of ‘Unfair Trade Practice’ For Withdrawing An Offer For Sale Of Laptop After Allotting A Confirmation Receipt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *