Mumbai : The High Court has recently observed that holding the hand of a little girl or opening the chain of her pants does not constitute sexual harassment. Explaining that these things cannot be termed as sexual harassment under Pokso, Justice Pushpa Ganediwala of the Nagpur Bench of the Mumbai High Court has acquitted a 50-year-old man from Pokso. The accused was accused of sexually abusing a five-year-old girl.
The Gadchiroli Sessions Court had convicted the accused in the case under ‘Pokso’ in 2019 and sentenced him to five years imprisonment and a fine of Rs 25,000. According to the complaint lodged by the victim’s mother, the accused had grabbed her daughter’s hand and the chain of his pants was also open at that time, the woman said in her complaint. The woman has also mentioned in her complaint that the accused opened the chain and took out her genitals and told the girl to sleep near him. On that basis, the accused was sentenced to five years in prison.
The Mumbai High Court has said that the definition of sexual harassment is mentioned in Section 7 of the Pokso Act. “Anyone who touches a girl’s genitals, breasts, or pressures a boy to touch her genitals or breasts, or attempts to have direct sexual intercourse, can only be called a sexual offender,” the court said in its ruling.
However, at the same time, these things can be considered as sexual harassment under section 354A (1) of the IPC. The offenses of forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse against her will or harassing a woman on the basis of pornography are punishable. The High Court also ruled that a maximum sentence of three years imprisonment could be imposed in the case.
A similar judgment of the Nagpur Bench was stayed by the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has stayed the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court’s decision not to touch the body of a minor girl without removing her clothes. The Nagpur bench’s verdict would set a dangerous precedent, the attorney general had said in his statement. A bench headed by the Chief Justice then stayed the decision.
A man convicted in a junior court in a case of sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl had moved the Nagpur Bench of the Mumbai High Court seeking his acquittal. During the hearing, the court had said, “If a minor girl touches her body without taking off her clothes without her consent, is it sexual abuse? Is it a crime of molestation with a minimum imprisonment of one year or sexual harassment under the Poxo Act?” There is a provision for a sentence of three years. ” “This is not a crime of sexual harassment,” the High Court said. In addition, the lower court reduced the sentence to one year.