Meghalaya High Court recently noted that an act of a man holding the hands of a minor girl, stroking it and saying the same is beautiful, wouldn’t amount to the offence of sexual assault under the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act unless there was sexual intent on his part.
Single-judge bench of Justice W Diengdoh noted that the intent of the accused is relevant in such cases and an offence of sexual assault will not be made out unless there was sexual intent.
In the order, the judge stated, “the alleged incident happened in broad daylight. The fact that the petitioner had held and commented on the hands of the alleged victim girl which contact is probably of a few seconds, the same cannot be read to imply that there is sexual intent on the part of the petitioner. At best, a non-sexual purpose of the contact can be presumed.”
Therefore, the high Court bench quashed the POCSO case against the accused.
As per the case details, the minor victim, who was nine year old at that time, went to a 55-year old shopkeeper to fetch water. The shopkeeper allegedly held her hand, stroked it and said that her hands were beautiful.
The minor girl’s mother filed an FIR against the man. Therefore, the POCSO Court framed charges against the accused under Section 354 (outraging modesty of a woman) and Section 354A (sexual harassment) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 7 (sexual assault) and Section 9 (aggravated sexual assault) of the POCSO Act.
The bench scrutinized the material on record and also considered case laws referred by the parties. The bench observed that
Bombay High Court in Bandu Vitthalrao Borwar vs State of Maharashtra case held that the sexual intent of the accused is the relevant aspect that needs to be considered in such cases.
“In the facts of the present case, this Court is inclined to agree with the opinion of the Bombay High Court and is also of the opinion that the action of the petitioner in holding the hands of the alleged victim girl and saying that her hands are beautiful would not in any way amount to sexual intent and thereby, would not be considered as an act of sexual assault,” Justice Diengdoh observed.
The judge further stated that the accused has not committed any offence and it is unlikely that he would be convicted.
“In fact, continuation of the proceedings would only be a wastage of judicial time and ends of justice would not be met. Viewed thus, this Court finds that the petitioner has been able to make out a case for quashing the proceedings,” the judge added.
Thus, the judges quashed the course against the accused.