Published on: November 7, 2022 at 19:29 IST
The Karnataka High Court made a key observation when it stated that the Law Commission must reconsider the POCSO Act’s age of consent in light of current circumstances.
“We are of the considered opinion that the Law Commission of India would have to rethink on the age criteria, so as to take into account the ground realities.
“The aspect of consent even by a girl of 16 years and above would have to be considered if there is indeed an offence under the IPC/POCSO Act.”
“We have come across several cases relating to minor girls under the age of 16 having fallen in love and eloped and in the meantime, having had sexual intercourse with the boy.”
The legal minimum age of consent for sex is 18, according to the legislation.
The permission of a girl under the age of 18 is not considered to be genuine, and engaging in sexual activity with a juvenile girl is illegal and punishable as rape.
In essence, the Court made this observation while hearing a state appeal contesting the acquittal of an accused of violating the rape and POCSO Act who had eloped with a 17-year-old girl and engaged in sexual activity with her in 2017.
Despite the girl’s parents filing a complaint, the prosecution witnesses all became hostile, and the case went on while the accused married the victim and the victim gave birth to two further children.
Given the circumstances, the trial court exonerated the accused of the accusations brought against him under Sections 376(2)(j), 5(1), and 6 of the POCSO Act.
In addition to upholding the acquittal decision, the High Court emphasised the importance of educating pupils about the POCSO Act starting in the IX grade so that they are aware of the types of behaviour that are prohibited by both the POCSO Act and the Indian Penal Code.
In light of this observation, the Court further ordered the Principal Secretary of the State Department of Education to form a Committee to create appropriate educational materials in this area and then issue the necessary directives to all schools, ordering that students be educated and warned of the consequences of their actions, should they violate the POCSO Act or the IPC.