Justice Deepak Kumar Agarwal and Madhya Pradesh High Court
The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently urged the Central government to reduce the age of consent for sex from the current 18 years to 16 years in order to redress the “injustice going on with adolescent boys” who enter into consensual sexual relationships. [Rahul Chandel v. State]
The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013, which raised the age of consent for sexual intercourse by girls from 16 to 18 years, has “distrubed” the fabric of society, the Court noted. Further, it was observed that the increase in the age of consent to 18 years has led to adolescent boys being treated as criminals in society, resulting in unfairness.
Justice Deepak Kumar Agarwal stated in his order,
“Generally, girls and boys of adolescents age develop friendship and thereafter, due to attraction make physical relationship. But, due to this rider boy is treated like a criminal in the society. Today, most of criminal cases in which prosecutrix is under 18 years of age, due to aforesaid anomaly, injustice is going on with adolescent boys. Thus, I request Government of India to think over the matter for reducing the age of prosecutrix from 18 to 16 years as earlier before amendments so that injustice should be redressed.”
The judge also opined that due to their exposure to social media, adolescents were “getting puberty in early age” and entering into consensual sexual relationships before turning adults.
“Now a days, every male or female near the age of 14 years due to social media awareness and easily accessible internet connectivity is getting puberty in early age. Owing to this, female and male child are getting attraction and these attractions are resulting into physical relationship with consent. In these cases, male persons are not at all criminal. It is only a matter of age when they come into contact with female and develop physical relationship.”
The Court was dealing with a criminal plea to quash a case registered against a 23-year-old man for rape and other offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) as well as under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) and the Information and Technology Act (IT Act).
According to the allegations, the accused, who offered the minor victim coaching classes, gave her juice that made her unconscious and engaged in sexual intercourse with her. He also allegedly recorded a video of the incident. The victim further alleged that the accused used to blackmail her of circulating the video and thereby forced her to have sexual intercourse with him on several other occasions.
She also filed a complaint against another student who used to come to her house and commit sexual intercourse with her many times.
Counsel for the first accused argued that there was a significant delay of approximately seven months in the filing of the complaint by the victim. Furthermore, if any sexual intercourse had occurred, it was consensual, he added.
The Court referred to a 2021 Madras High Court ruling which highlighted the widespread misuse of the POCSO Act by families to prosecute their teenage daughters’ partners. It was observed in that order that the intention of the POCSO Act was never to punish an adolescent boy who engages in a relationship with a minor girl by treating him as an offender.
Justice Agarwal further opined that the physical and mental development of adolescents in the age group of the victim suggests that they are capable of making informed decisions regarding their well-being.
Additionally, the Court noted that prima facie, there was no intention to commit a wrongful act in the present case.
Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, the Court found it appropriate to quash the FIR along with all subsequent proceedings.