On Tuesday, the Madhya Pradesh High Court requested the Government of India to consider reducing the age of consent from 18 to 16 in rape cases (as per Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code) to redress the injustice being caused to adolescent boys.
The bench of Justice Deepak Kumar Agarwal made this appeal to the Central Govt as it opined that due to social media awareness and easy accessibility to internet connectivity, puberty occurs near the age of 14, resulting in physical relationships between young boys and girls with consent.
“Nowadays, every male or female near the age of 14 years due to social media awareness and easily accessible internet connectivity is getting puberty at an early age. Owing to this, female and male children are getting attracted to each other and these attractions are resulting in a physical relationship with consent. In these cases, male persons are not at all criminals. It is only a matter of age when they come into contact with female and develop physical relationships,” (sic) the Court said.
In light of these observations, the Court further observed that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which increased the age of consent for sexual intercourse by a girl, which was earlier 16 years, to 18 years, has ‘disturbed’ the fabric of the society. The Bench also stressed that due to the age of consent being 18 years, the boy is treated like a criminal in society causing injustice to adolescent boys.
For context, prior to the enactment of the 2013 Amendment Act, sexual intercourse with a girl below 16 was considered rape, irrespective of the girl’s consent. However, in the year 2013, the Amendment Act raised the age of consent to 18, implying that sexual intercourse by an adult with a girl below 18 would amount to rape, irrespective of the presence of consent in a given case.
Madhya Pradesh High Court asks the Union Of India to consider lowering the consent age to 16 years (from 18 years) for the purpose of Section 375 IPC (Rape).MP HC: 2013 Amendment which raised the age of consent from 16 to 18 in rape cases has ‘disturbed the fabric of society’ pic.twitter.com/xmg98ag9kp
The case in brief
The Court was essentially dealing with an FIR/Criminal case quashing plea filed by 23-year-old Rahul Chandel Jatav who was facing charges under Sections 376(2)(F)(n), 376(3), 315 of IPC as well as under Section 5(L)(O)/6 of POCSO Act and 66 of IT Act
As per the allegations, the accused, who used to teach the Victim, a minor, committed sexual intercourse with her and made a video of her in January 2020 after giving her Juice to drink, which made her unconscious.
As per the victim, the Accused, on the pretext of circulating the video, started making physical relationships with her on multiple occasions. It was further alleged that the accused used to come to her house several times through the roof and made physical relationships with her.
Before the Court, the counsel for the accused argued that the FIR was lodged by the victim after a delay of about seven months and besides this, if any intercourse had been done, the same was with her consent, and there was no force involved in it.
On the other hand, the Panel Lawyer for the State submitted that since, at the time of the incident, the prosecutrix was minor, therefore, the petitioner should be dismissed.
High Court’s order
At the outset, the Court referred to the Madras High Court’s 2021 ruling in the case of Vijayalakshmi & Anr. v. State & Anr., wherein, the High Court, while highlighting rampant misuse of the POCSO Act by families for prosecuting the partner of their teenage daughters, observed that punishing an adolescent boy who enters into a relationship with a minor girl by treating him as an offender, was never the objective of the POCSO Act.
Further, taking into account the facts of the case, the Court noted that though the victim was a minor at the time of the incident, however, she was engaged physically with the present petitioner/accused as also with another man.
The Court also opined that looking into the physical and mental development of adolescents of the victim’s age group, it could be said that such a person is capable of making a conscious decision as regard his or her well-being. Besides this, the Court prima facie found that there was no mens rea involved in this case.
Against this backdrop, the Court found it appropriate to quash the FIR as well as all consequential proceedings of the case as it underscored that the proceedings before the Court would serve no purpose in the peculiar facts and circumstances. Hence, the plea of the accused was allowed.
Also Read: 16-Yr-Old Capable Of Making Conscious Decision About Sex: Meghalaya High Court Quashes POCSO Case Against Boyfriend
Case title – Rahul Chandel Jatav vs The State Of Madhya Pradesh and another
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