The Madras High Court on Saturday suggested that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act be amended to exclude consensual sex after 16 years of age from the purview of the Act. Justice V Parthiban said that the definition of “child” under the Act should be reduced from 18 years to 16 years, Bar and Bench reported.

The judge made the remarks while hearing a case filed by a man alleging that the accused, who was above 18 years of age, had abducted his granddaughter, who was 17, and committed penetrative sexual assault on her. However, the court set aside the charges based on lack of evidence. Many witnesses, including the granddaughter, turned hostile. She said that she had consented to elope with the accused.

“When the girl below 18 years is involved in a relationship with the teenage boy or little over the teenage, it is always a question mark as to how such relationship could be defined, though such relationship would be the result of mutual innocence and biological attraction,” the court said in its ruling. “Such relationship cannot be construed as an unnatural one or alien to between relationship of opposite sexes.” Unfortunately, it added, such a relationship attracts the provisions of the POCSO Act and can lead to the offender being imprisoned for 7-10 years.

The judge noted that a majority of cases of sexual assault on minor girls are due to relationships between teenage boys and girls, Live Law reported. The court said that a provision can be introduced in the Act that the man must not be more than five years older than the girl.

The court said that objectification of women in movies and pornographic content available online may be some of the reasons for growing incidences of sexual assaults on women and children. “The society must collectively introspect what is it that drives some men to unleash their libidinous rage on hapless children and women of all ages,” the judge said.