Bombay High Court recently held that merely holding or touching the hand of a minor to express love without any sexual intent does not amount to an offence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and granted anticipatory bail to the 27-year old accused.
The order was passed by a single-judge bench of Justice Bharati H Dangre on December 22. The anticipatory bail plea was moved by the 27-year old man who was booked from Baramati in Pune district earlier this year for the punishable offences under Sections 354 (criminal force committed on a woman to outrage her modesty) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 7 (sexual assault of minor) of the POCSO Act, among others.
In the complaint filed by the minor girl, she explained that she was a student and the accused was her neighbour. One day, the accused blocked her way while she was going for her tuition. He expressed his love and when she ignored him, he held her right hand to express his feelings towards her. She was scared and left the place immediately.
She also mentioned in the complaint that the accused warned her not to report the incident to anybody. She further added in her complaint that the man kept sending her messages from different numbers. She alleged that he also threatened her that he had opened an Instagram account to malign her image. Finally, after being tortured for eight months, she decided to lodge an FIR against him.
Considering all the submissions and perusing the material on record, Justice Dangre observed, “Prima facie, looking at the allegations levelled in the FIR, the applicant expressed his feeling of love towards the complainant by holding her hand on one occasion. This by itself cannot be said to be falling within the sweep of Section 7 (of the POCSO Act), since prima facie the ingredients of Section 7 are not made out in the wake of allegations in the complaint or attempting to contact her by use of electronic communication…any physical touch inadvertently or without any sexual intent could not be brought within the sweep of the said section.”