The Supreme Court bench of Justices Madan B.Lokur and Deepak Gupta, on Wednesday, asked the Centre to provide data on the number of Child Marriage Prohibition Officers, appointed under the Child Marriage Prohibition Act, 2006 as well as the number of prosecutions that have been instituted over the last three years under the Act.
The bench also requested the petitioner NGO, Independent Thought’s counsel, Gaurav Agrawal, to provide the bench with some more information about the health of girls who are married at the age of 15 to 18 years. The bench asked him to produce more recent reports on the issue.
The petitioner in this case has challenged the validity of Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code [as amended by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, as violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution to the extent that it permits intrusive sexual intercourse with a girl child aged between 15 to 18 years only on the ground that she has been married. Exception 2 says that sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.
The petitioner has underlined the inconsistency between Exception 2 and Sixthly of Section 375, which has increased the age of consent for sexual intercourse for a girl child to 18 years. Therefore, sexual intercourse with a girl child under 18 years would constitute rape, with or without her consent.
The petitioner has further emphasised that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 reflect the legislative policy that the girl child less than 18 years should not be subjected to any kind of sexual assault or infringement of her body/mind. Consent in such circumstances is irrelevant.
While making such progressive change in Section 375 IPC, Parliament has incorrectly continued the age of 15 years in Exception 2 to Section 375, the petitioner has contended.
The matter has been listed for further hearing on August 31.