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Delhi HC: Enactment of POCSO Act was for Safeguard of Children, Not to Criminalize Romantic Relationship Between Young Adults

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Delhi High Court Law Insider

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: 13 November 2022 at 20:02 IST

According to the Delhi High Court, the purpose of the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was to safeguard children from sexual abuse rather than to criminalise young adults consensual romantic relationships.

While hearing a bail matter Justice Jasmeet Singh stated this statement. Accused was granted bail in a case filed under Sections 363/366/376 IPC and Sections 6/17 POCSO Act.

The alleged victim was married off to a man by her family when she was 17 years old in June 2021, but she was not happy and did not want to stay with him. She visited the accused in October 2021 since he was a friend, and he drove her to Punjab where they got married. Her father filed a police report (FIR) against the defendant.

The bench opined that, “POCSO’s goal, in my perspective, was to safeguard young people under the age of 18 from sexual exploitation. It was never intended to make young adults’ mutually beneficial love relationships illegal.”

“However, the specifics of each instance must be considered in order to understand this. In other instances, the victim of a sexual offence could feel pressured or traumatised into settling “

The accused boy is under judicial custody since last December, 2021. His counsel also submitted that feeling danger for her life, the girl already filed for police protection before the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The court referred this instance, as here the girl approached the court voluntarilyand submitted a declaration there that her parents had threatened to hurt her and her husband.

On October 20, the court personally interacted with the woman in the chamber. She said in court that although she had been married off to a man when she was a teenager, she did not wish to remain with him. She also told the judge that she married her friend, who is accused in the case brought by her father, voluntarily and without any coercion.

Justice Singh remarked, “Thus, this is not a case where the girl was coerced into the relationship with the boy. In fact, Ms ‘A’, herself visited the applicant’s home and proposed marriage to him. The victim’s statement makes it evident that the two are in a romantic connection and that the sexual conduct they engaged in was consenting “

The fact of a consensual connection created out of love should be taken into consideration when granting bail, the court ruled, even if a minor’s consent has no legal significance.

In this case, the court stated that it would be unjust to disregard the victim’s account and let the accused languish in prison.

The court added that the proceedings in front of bench concerns the granting of bail rather than the quashing of a FIR. It went on to note that this is not a situation in which the accused’s record is completely cleared.

The petitioner is entitled to bail in the current situation for the reasons listed above, it continued.

In the ruling, the court cited the Madras High Court’s observations from the case Vijayalakshmi v. State, in which it was stated that “whatever became a law to protect and render justice to victims and survivors of child abuse, can, become a tool in the hands of certain sections of the society to abuse the legal system.”

“This Court granted bail to the accused in the case of Dharmender Singh v. State (Govt. of NCT) BAIL APPL. 1559/2020 while taking into account the potential for a reciprocating physical interaction between the accused and the juvenile victim. Additionally, it has outlined the criteria to be utilised when deciding whether to grant bail to someone charged under the POCSO Act “