'SEXUAL INTENT IMPORTANT' Supreme Court cancels HC order on 'No skin-to-skin contact'

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The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that ‘skin to skin’ contact is not necessary for a crime to be considered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that 'skin to skin' contact is not necessary for a crime to be considered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Calling it a "narrow interpretation of the law", the court set aside a Bombay High Court judgement that had acquitted a man saying, "groping a minor's breast without 'skin to skin contact' can't be termed as sexual assault under POCSO".

Pointing out that the objective of POCSO is to protect children from sexual abuse, the court said that physical contact made with sexual intent comes under POCSO, and "skin to skin" contact is not the criteria.

Attorney General KK Venugopal had opposed the Bombay HC verdict arguing that the court's interpretation would mean that "someone can wear a surgical glove and exploit a child and get away scot-free". He had added that it will be treated as precedent and the result will be "devastating".

Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra had argued for the accused and said, "sexual intent requires physical contact but, in this case, the clothing was touched not the skin."

The POCSO Act defines sexual assault as when someone "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".

The SC had questioned the interpretation of touch during the hearings. "What does touch mean, simply a touch? Even if you're wearing a piece of clothing, they're not trying to touch clothing. We must see touch in the meaning that Parliament intended," the court noted.

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