POCSO Act Never Meant To Criminalize Consensual Romantic Relationships But Protect Children From Sexual Offences- Delhi HC
The Delhi High Court while considering a bail application held that the intention of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) is to protect children from sexual exploitation and it was never meant to criminalize consensual romantic relationships between young adults.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice Jasmeet Singh was dealing with a matter in which an FIR was filed by the father contending that his daughter aged about 17 years got married to a man. The Bench in this context observed –
"In my opinion the intention of POCSO was to protect children below the age of 18 years from sexual exploitation. It was never meant to criminalize consensual romantic relationships between young adults. However, this has to be seen from facts and circumstances of each case. There might be cases where the survivor of sexual offence, may under pressure or trauma be forced to settle."
Advocate Omkar Sharma represented the petitioner whereas, Advocate Ajay Vikram Singh represented the respondent.
Brief Facts –
A woman i.e., the daughter of the complainant aged about 17 years was married on June 30, 2021, to a man named Sunil Kumar i.e., the applicant, and on October 28, 2021, the applicant took her to Punjab to perform marriage with her. The daughter of the complainant approached the High Court of Punjab and Haryana stating that she had married the applicant out of her own will and that her parents were threatening to cause harm to her and her husband. Hence, the High Court directed the Police to provide adequate protection to the woman and her husband.
Thereafter, the father of that woman filed an FIR regarding the above-stated matter. The Court interacted with the woman in the Chamber where she stated that she was married to Sunil but did not wish to stay with him, and at the time of marriage, she was an adolescent and was of around 17 years of age. She further stated that she got married to the applicant of her own free without any undue influence, threat, pressure, or coercion, and even today she wanted to stay with him.
The Court therefore noted –
"Thus, this is not a case where the girl was coerced into the relationship with the boy. In fact, Ms. 'A', herself went to the applicant's house and asked him to marry her. The statement of the victim makes it clear that this is a romantic relationship between the two and that the sexual act involved between them was consensual. Although the victim is minor and hence her consent does not have any legal bearing, I am of the opinion that the factum of a consensual relationship borne out of love should be of consideration while granting bail. To ignore the statement of the victim and let the accused suffer behind jail, in the present case, would otherwise amount to perversity of justice."
The Court in the above context further ordered –
"I am cognizant of the fact that the proceedings before me are of grant of bail and not of quashing of FIR. It is not a case where the slate of applicant is wiped clear. In the circumstances of the present case, the applicant is entitled to bail for the reasons enumerated above."
The Court also directed that the applicant shall furnish a personal bond and surety bond of Rs. 10,000/- each.
Accordingly, the Court granted bail to the accused and disposed of the application.
Cause Title – Ajay Kumar v. State Govt. of NCT of Delhi and Anr.