Considering consent – The POCSO Act | 10th November 2022 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about reducing the age of consent from 18 years to 16 years  in the POCSO Act.

Relevance:

  • GS2: Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

What's the crux of the article?

  • Recently, the Dharwad Bench of the Karnataka High Court asked the Law Commission of India to rethink the criteria for age of consent, “taking into consideration the ground realities.”
  • The majority of the adolescents girls and boys booked in the POCSO cases, according to HC, are between the ages of 16 and 18.
  • They fell in love and eloped with the intention of getting married consensually.
  • After the registration of cases under the POCSO Act, boys face criminal prosecution, and the girls are sent to government institutions.
  • Such a recourse has lifelong consequences for both girls and boys and jeopardises their future.
  • The Law Commission of India must therefore review the POCSO Act's provisions and consider lowering the consent age.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act)

  • It was enacted to protect children aged less than 18 from sexual assault sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and pornography.
  • It is gender-neutral and prioritises the child’s best interests at all stages to guarantee that the child’s physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development are all healthy.
  • Anyone under the age of 18 is a kid under the Act. It prioritises the child’s best interests and well-being to ensure the child’s healthy physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development.
  • It differentiates between many sorts of sexual abuse, such as penetrative and non-penetrative assault, sexual harassment, and pornography.
  • The Act imposes heavy penalties that are graded based on the seriousness of the offence, with a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

What is meant by the Age of Consent:

  • It is the age at which a person becomes legally competent to consent to marriage or sexual intercourse.
  • In India, under various laws such as POCSO, it is 18 years.
  • In the past, the Justice J.S. Verma Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law also recommended that the age of consent be reduced to 16, and necessary amendments be made in the POCSO Act.

Law Commission in India (LCI):

  • It is an executive body to undertake research in law and review of existing laws in India for making reforms therein and enacting new legislations.
  • First LCI in British India: in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 – Lord Macaulay Commission
  • First LCI in Independent India: in 1955 with the then Attorney-General of India, Mr M. C. Setalvad, as its Chairman.
  • The recommendations of the commission are not binding on the government.

Way Forward:

  • As much as the laws of a country must adhere to the principle of justice and fairness, they also need to stay in tune with the times. The Law Commission should review this provision and also ensure that the POCSO Act stays true to its broad intent — the protection of children.



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