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Skin-to-skin verdict judge Pushpa Ganediwala resigns from Bombay HC, may join law firm

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Nagpur: Justice Pushpa Ganediwala of the Bombay high court, whose stirred controversy last year with her vexed interpretation of “skin-to-skin contact” in a case of sexual assault against a minor, resigned as additional judge on Thursday, a day before her tenure was to end. 

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The 53-year-old tendered her resignation to President Ramnath Kovind and marked a copy each to Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and Bombay HC Chief Justice Dipankar Datta. February 11 is her last working day. The resignation implies she is quitting the judiciary to resume her practice.

Justice Ganediwala was facing the prospect of going back to the lower judiciary if she continued in the judicial service. This means Justice Ganediwala, currently a temporary judge with the Bombay HC, would revert back as a District Judge at the end of her stint.

“Once you become a high court judge, going back to the lower judiciary is a demotion. Of course, she is not the first one to resign as HC judge; there are many such precedents,” a senior lawyer said adding that she would pursue either arbitration and litigation in the Supreme Court or join her relative’s law firm in Mumbai. Besides the POCSO case ruling, several of Justice Ganediwala’s judgments as part of the Nagpur bench had been seen as bordering on the bizarre.

After a series of debatable verdicts, the Supreme Court collegium had refused to make her a permanent judge at the end of her tenure as additional judge. Subsequently, she was granted a year’s extension as additional judge on February 13, 2021. The apex court collegium, led by CJI, had recommended a two-year extension as an additional judge to Ganediwala after withdrawing its earlier suggestion to make her a permanent judge. However, the Union ministry of law and justice, led by then minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, didn’t accept the recommendation, citing a “series of controversial” judgments. It instead offered her a one-year extension.

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In her January 19, 2020 judgment, Justice Ganediwala had acquitted a 39-year-old man of Section 6 offence under POCSO Act on the ground that pressing breasts of a minor girl without removing her top didn’t entail skin-to-skin contact, hence not a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act offence. The verdict was scrapped by the SC on November 18 after several petitions against it, including by Attorney General KK Venugopal and the National Commission for Women were filed.

Nine days after the controversial judgement, Justice Ganediwala once again stirred controversy by her January 28, 2020 judgment acquitting a 50-year-old man by ruling that holding hand of a five-year-old kid and unzipping pants in front of her could not be categorised as a sexual offence under POCSO Act, “the acts of ‘holding the hands of the prosecutrix’ (female victim), or ‘opened zip of the pant’…does not fit in the definition of ‘sexual assault”. The assault victim was a five-year-old girl.

Notably, both her judgments were overturned by the Supreme Court.

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