This Article is From Nov 18, 2021

"Skin-To-Skin Contact" Only 2nd Time Attorney General Challenged High Court

In 1985 then Attorney General K Parasaran challenged a Rajasthan High Court verdict that ordered the public hanging of an accused; the order was overturned by the Supreme Court

'Skin-To-Skin Contact' Only 2nd Time Attorney General Challenged High Court

Attorney General KK Venugopal had challenged the Bombay High Court's decision (File)

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside a controversial judgment of the Bombay High Court that said "groping a minor's breast without 'skin-to-skin contact' can't be termed as sexual assault under POCSO".

While it is a landmark order - the top court called it a "narrow interpretation of the law" and said that if physical contact had been made with sexual intent it comes under the law - what was noteworthy is the High Court's decision had been challenged by KK Venugopal, the Attorney General of India.  

This is only the second time an Attorney General has challenged the decision of a High Court.

Earlier, after pronouncing the judgment, Justice UU Lalit said: "This is perhaps the first time the learned Attorney General has challenged a judgement on the criminal side… a first and it is remarkable."

Justice SR Bhat intervened and pointed out this was first done in 1985, when then Attorney General, K Parasaran, challenged a Rajasthan High Court verdict ordering the public hanging of an accused.

The court had ordered the execution, by public hanging, of a woman at Jaipur's Ramlila Ground, or Stadium Ground, after widespread media publicity about the date, time and place of execution.

The case was known as the Attorney General versus Lichma Devi.

Lichma Devi was convicted of murdering her daughter-in-law by pouring kerosene over her and burning her alive on account of non-fulfillment of dowry expectations.

The Supreme Court quashed the High Court decision, saying execution by public hanging would be a barbaric practice violative of Article 21 (the right to life) of the Constitution.

The court also said: "It is undoubtedly true that the crime of which the accused have been found to be guilty is barbaric, a disgrace and a shame on any civilised society… which no society should tolerate; but a barbaric crime does not have to be revisited with a barbaric penalty such as public hanging."