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Indian Court Rules That Groping A Child Without Removing Clothes Is Not Sexual Assault

by : Emily Brown on : 26 Jan 2021 11:51
Indian Court Rules That Groping A Child Without Removing Clothes Is Not Sexual AssaultWikimedia Commons/PA

A judge in India has ruled that groping a child without removing their clothes ‘would not fall in the definition of “sexual assault”‘.

Bombay High Court judge Pushpa Ganediwala made the ruling on January 19 after a 39-year-old man appealed to the High Court for being found guilty of sexual assault.

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The man brought a 12-year-old girl to his home on the pretext of giving her guava in December 2016, according to court documents. While there, he touched her chest and tried to remove her underwear.

GavelPixabay

The accused man was found guilty of sexual assault and given the minimum sentence of three years in prison in a lower court before appealing to the High Court, where Justice Ganediwala took the case.

Despite touching the girl, the judge noted that the 39-year-old had not removed her clothes, meaning there was no skin-on-skin contact.

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Ganediwala wrote that his act ‘would not fall in the definition of ‘sexual assault”, though India’s Protection of Children From Sexual Offenses Act 2012 does not explicitly state that skin-on-skin contact is needed to constitute the crime of sexual assault, CNN reports.

The judge wrote:

Considering the stringent nature of punishment provided for the offense, in the opinion of this court, stricter proof and serious allegations are required.

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The accused man was acquitted of his sexual assault charge, but Ganediwala convicted him on the lesser charge of molestation. Following the ruling he was sentenced to one year in prison.

Defending her decision, Ganediwala said: ‘It is the basic principle of criminal jurisprudence that the punishment for an offense shall be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime.’

The ruling sets a new precedent for other high courts and lower courts across the country, prompting Indian residents to question the logic of Ganediwala’s decision.

Karuna Nundy, a lawyer at the Supreme Court of India, implied the ruling was ‘completely contrary to established law’ and ‘violating basic rights’, saying there should be ‘retraining and temporary suspension of judges’ who pass judgements of this kind.

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Addressing the ruling on Twitter, she added: ‘Judgments like this contribute to impunity in crimes against girls.’

In a statement released online, The National Commission for Women announced plans to challenge the judgment.

The organisation wrote:

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@NCWIndia is going to challenge the Hon’ble Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench judgement in Criminal Appeal No.161 of 2020, Satish Ragde v. State of Maharashtra dated 19.01.2021.

The judgment will not only have cascading effect on various provisions involving safety and security of women in general but also put all the women under ridicule and has trivialized the legal provisions provided by the legislature for the safety and security of women.

Sexual assault is a huge issue in India, with activists pointing to ongoing issues in the justice system as the reason cases are often poorly dealt with.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas.

Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on their website or on their free helpline 0808 800 5005, open 9am–5pm Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; 8am–8pm Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10am–2pm Saturdays.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, India, Law, Sexual Assault

Credits

CNN and 2 others
  1. CNN

    Indian court rules that groping without removing clothes is not sexual assault

  2. The National Commission for Women/Twitter

    @NCWIndia

  3. Karuna Nundy/Twitter

    @karunanundy