POCSO Does Not Criminalise Consensual Relationships: Delhi High Court

The Delhi HC punctuated a clear division between sexual exploitation and consenting physical liaisons between young-adults.

Delhi High Court

POCSO Act was instated with the intention to protect children from sexual exploitation, not to criminalise relationships between two consenting young-adults, highlighted the Delhi High Court. 

Whilst clearing bail for a 23-year-old in a Pocso case that arose from the boy’s consensual relationship with a minor who is now pregnant, the High Court underlined that at the time of the alleged offence, the girl who was 17 and a half years old then, had substantial intellectual capacity and maturity and had appeared to be in a consensual romantic relationship with the accused. 

The High court added that they had engaged in a physical liaison off their own accord, employing free will. The court quoted a previous verdict where bail was granted on the pretext that the possibility of a mutual relationship between the accused and the minor could not be overlooked. 

The court further emphasised that placing a ‘young boy’ in jail, alongside coarsened criminals would prove to be more detrimental than beneficial to him. 

“The petitioner, who is presently aged about 23 years, is already in custody since 15th October 2021. Keeping the petitioner in jail will not serve any useful purpose, rather subjecting a young boy in the company of hardened criminals would do more harm than good to him,” the Court noted. 

An FIR was registered when the girl alleged that the accused, who was her neighbour at the time, had initiated friendship and eventually established a physical relationship with her, on the pretext of marriage. When the girl subsequently discovered about her pregnancy, her medical examination disclosed that it was too late for an abortion. 

The FIR was lodged by the prosecutrix “at the insistence of her family who were perhaps embarrassed after the discovery of prosecutrix’s pregnancy which had surpassed the stage of its termination,” the court revealed in its order. The court acknowledged the girl’s minor status at the time of the incident, however, at the same time it asserted that she was capable of “sufficient maturity and intellectual capacity.”

The court contested that placement of an undertrial in jail, as an imperative to ascertain his presence during trial, could be secured by employing other appropriate conditions. It further assured that the testimonies of the girl and her mother had already been recorded, and therefore, any apprehension about material witnesses getting influenced should stay abated. 

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