Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Saturday urged the legislature to address the growing concern about the age of consent under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, Bar and Bench reported.
The age of consent for sex in India is 18 under the POCSO Act. Consent given by a person aged below 18 is not regarded as valid and sexual intercourse with them amounts to rape.
“The POCSO Act criminalises all sexual activity for those under the age of 18, regardless of whether consent is factually present between the two minors in a particular case,” Justice Chandrachud said. “The presumption of the law is that there is no consent in the legal sense below the age of 18.”
Justice Chandrachud made the remarks during his speech at the National Annual Stakeholders Consultation on Child Protection organised by the Supreme Court Committee on Juvenile Justice.
During Saturday’s address, the chief justice said that the age of consent under the POCSO Act poses difficult questions for judges in certain cases, reported Live Law.
“There is a growing concern surrounding this issue which must be considered by the legislature in view of reliable research by experts in adolescent health care,” he said.
Justice Chandrachud rued the fact that cases of sexual assault on children are not reported due to social stigma.
“The first is the stereotype that only the girl child can or is likely to be sexually abused and the second is that the perpetrator is always a stranger,” he said. “Research has consistently demonstrated both that boys are at equal risk for sexual abuse and that the perpetrator is known to the victim in an overwhelming number of cases, and may be an immediate family member, caretaker or neighbour.”
In his address, Justice Chandrachud also pointed out that the clause of mandatory reporting under the POCSO Act should not be a barrier while accessing medical care, according to Live Law.
Under the law, anyone who has information about a sexual act with a person under 18 years is required to report the information to the police.
“Registered medical practitioners need not immediately disclose the name of the minors to the authorities in case the minor seeks an abortion but does not wish to be involved with the criminal justice process until access to health care is received,” he said.