Judge behind controversial POCSO verdicts takes oath as additional Judge of Bombay HC

The extension was approved by the government, based on a revised recommendation made by the Supreme Court Collegium, just a day before Justice Ganediwala’s initial two-year tenure was set to end.

Justice Pushpa V Ganediwala, who faced backlash for her controversial interpretation of sexual assault under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, took oath Saturday as an additional judge of the Bombay High Court for one more year. 

Justice Nitin Jamar, the senior most judge at the Nagpur Bench, administered the oath. The extension was approved by the government, based on a revised recommendation made by the Supreme Court Collegium, just a day before Justice Ganediwala’s initial two-year tenure was set to end.

“In exercise of power conferred by clause (1) of Article 224 of the Constitution of India, the President is pleased to appoint Smt Pushpa Virendra Ganediwala, to be an additional judge of the Bombay High Court for a period of one year with effect from 13 February 2021,” the warrant of appointment stated.

Earlier, the Supreme Court Collegium had withdrawn its recommendation to appoint Justice Ganediwala as a permanent judge of the high court after two of her recent verdicts were widely criticised. On January 19, the judge acquitted a man of sexual assault on the grounds that pressing the breasts of a child over her clothes without direct “skin to skin” contact did not qualify as “sexual assault” under the POCSO Act. 

Stating that Section 8 of POCSO provides for stringent punishment of five years of rigorous imprisonment, she said that stricter proof and serious allegations were required. Instead, the man was convicted under “minor offence u/s 354 of IPC and sentenced to undergo RI”. On January 27, the Supreme Court stayed this order.

In another ruling, she held that the act of holding the hand of a minor or the zip of the pants of the accused being open at the time of the incident, does not amount to sexual assault under POCSO. Her controversial judgements caused an uproar, prompting the Supreme Court to recall its recommendation to make Justice Ganediwala a permanent judge of the Bombay High Court. 

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