Mumbai, Jan 28: Bombay High Court has held that holding a minor girl’s hands and opening the zip of pants cannot be called “sexual assault” under POCSO Act, but would amount to “sexual harassment” under Section 354-A(1)(i) of the IPC.
The same judge, Justice Pushpa Ganediwala, recently held that groping a minor’s breast without “skin to skin contact” cannot be called “sexual assault” under POCSO Act.
The ruling was pronounced in a criminal appeal against the conviction and sentence awarded to a 50-year-old man for molesting a five-year-old girl.
The Nagpur bench observed that the case comes under the gambit of “sexual harassment” and not “sexual assault”.
The Session Court had convicted the man and ruled it to be “aggravated sexual assault” punishable under Section 10 of POCSO and sentenced him to five years of rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs 25,000 with a default simple imprisonment for six months.
However, Justice Ganediwala set aside his conviction under Sections 8, 10 and 12 of POCSO Act, but held him guilty under Section 354A (1) (i) IPC, which carries a maximum imprisonment of three years.
The police had registered a case based on the complaint lodged by the victim’s mother, who said that she saw the accused, whose pants zip was opened, holding the hands of her daughter. She had also testified that her daughter informed her that the accused removed his penis from the pant and asked her to come to the bed for sleeping.