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POCSO Act Meant To Protect Minors From Sexual Abuse, Not Criminalize Consensual Romantic Relationships Of Young Adults: Delhi HC

Sofi Ahsan
13 Nov 2022 6:22 AM GMT
POCSO Act Meant To Protect Minors From Sexual Abuse, Not Criminalize Consensual Romantic Relationships Of Young Adults: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court has said that the intention of The Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was to protect the children from sexual abuse and not criminalise consensual romantic relationships of young adults.

Justice Jasmeet Singh made the observation in an order granting bail to an accused in a case registered under Sections 363/366/376 IPC & Sections 6/17 POCSO Act last year.

When the woman - the alleged victim - was 17 years old in June 2021, she was married off to a man by her family but she did not want to stay with him. In October 2021, she came to the house of the accused, who was her friend, and he took her to Punjab where they married. Her father registered an FIR against the accused.

"In my opinion the intention of POCSO was to protect children below the age of 18 years from sexual exploitation. It was never meant to criminalize consensual romantic relationships between young adults. However, this has to be seen from facts and circumstances of each case. There might be cases where the survivor of sexual offence, may under pressure or trauma be forced to settle," said Justice Singh.

The accused was in judicial custody since December 31, 2021. His counsel last month told the court that the girl had earlier approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court seeking protection from her parents.

Perusing the order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Singh said it shows that she had approached the high court out of her own will and made a statement there that her parents were threatening to cause harm to her and her husband.

The court interacted with the woman in the chamber on October 20. She told the court she was married off to a person when she was a teenager but she did not want to stay with him. She further told the court that she got married to her friend, who is accused in the case registered on her father's complaint, of her own will and without any coercion. She told the court she wants to stay with him even today.

"Thus, this is not a case where the girl was coerced into the relationship with the boy. In fact, Ms. 'A', herself went to the applicant's house and asked him to marry her. The statement of the victim makes it clear that this is a romantic relationship between the two and that the sexual act involved between them was consensual," said Justice Singh.

The court said although a minor's consent does not have any legal bearing, the factum of a consensual relationship borne out of love should be of consideration while granting bail.

"To ignore the statement of the victim and let the accused suffer behind jail, in the present case, would otherwise amount to perversity of justice," said the court.

The court also noted that it is cognizant that the proceedings before it are of grant of bail and not quashing of FIR. It further observed that it is not a case where the slate of the accused is wiped clear.

"In the circumstances of the present case, the applicant is entitled to bail for the reasons enumerated above," it added.

The court in the order referred to Madras High Court's observations in Vijayalakshmi vs State wherein it was said that "what came to be 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 process of law".

"This Court in Dharmender Singh v. State (Govt. of NCT) BAIL APPL. 1559/2020, granted bail to the accused while taking into consideration the possibility of a reciprocal physical relationship between the accused and the minor victim. It has also laid down the parameters that are to be followed when considering bail of a person accused under the POCSO Act," it added.


Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 1077

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