The Law Commission has advised the Central government against lowering the age of consent from 18 to 16 under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, reported PTI on Friday.
The commission, however, said it considers certain amendments to the Act necessary to address cases where there is tacit approval from children aged between 16 and 18.
The age of consent for sex in India is 18. Consent given by a person aged below 18 is not regarded as valid and sexual intercourse with them amounts to rape.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud in December last year had urged Parliament to address the growing concern about the age of consent under the Act.
“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.”
He said that the age of consent under the POCSO Act poses difficult questions for judges in certain cases.
In its report on the age of consent under the POCSO Act to the law ministry, the commission, headed by Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, the former chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, has said that reducing the age of consent will have a negative bearing on cases of child marriage and child trafficking.
It also advised courts to tread with caution even in cases where it is observed that adolescent love cannot be controlled and criminal intention may be missing.
In the cases involving tacit approval of adolescents, the commission noted that such cases do not merit being dealt with the same severity as the cases that were ideally imagined to fall under the POCSO Act.
“The Commission, therefore, deems it fit to introduce guided judicial discretion in the matter of sentencing in such cases,” stated the panel. “This will ensure that the law is balanced, thus safeguarding the best interests of the child.”
Registration of e-FIRs
The commission has also submitted a report on rolling out the registration of e-first information reports and setting up a centralised national portal to facilitate it.
It told the government that the service could be launched in a phased manner, beginning with offences bearing up to three years jail term. It said that e-FIRs will tackle a long persisting issue of delay in the registration of FIRs.
“Due to the march of technology, means of communication have progressed in leaps and bounds,” Awasthi said. “In such a landscape, clinging on to an archaic system of registering FIRs does not augur well for criminal reforms.”