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TNN | Aug 26, 2013, 12.56AM IST
NEW DELHI: A city court has observed that consensual sex with a girl aged below 18 years does not constitute an offence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The court said the provisions of POCSO Act suggest that where a physical relationship — which is not in the nature of an assault — takes place with the minor girl's consent and where the consent has not been obtained unlawfully, no offence can be said to have been committed.
Rejecting the plea of the police and Delhi Commission forWomen that POCSO Act prohibits minors from having any kind sexual relationship, additional sessions judge Dharmesh Sharma said, "I am afraid if that interpretation is allowed, it would mean that the human body of every individual under 18 years is the property of the state and no individual below 18 years can be allowed to have pleasures associated with one's body."
ASJ Sharma, however, urged state authorities to spread awareness related to unsafe sex or early marriage. "But there lies a greater responsibility on all of us, the state including police in spreading and creating public awareness about the impact of girl or boy marrying at a tender age or indulging in unsafe sexual activities," he said.
The court made these observations while acquitting a 22-year-old youth of charges of kidnapping and raping a 15-year-old girl whom he later married. The youth, a native of West Bengal, was acquitted of the charges as the court held that the minor, on her own will, accompanied him and obstacles should not be put in their happy married life.
"As the evidence indicates, they got married voluntarily with their free consent. Hence no case is made out under section 363 (kidnapping) and 366 (kidnapping or inducing woman to compel her marriage) of the IPC," the court said.
"In my opinion, it would neither serve the object of present enactment (POCSO Act) nor the purpose of criminal laws to hold the accused guilty on the ground that he had sexual intercourse with the girl below 18 years," the judge said, adding that it would not be good for the girl if her husband was sent to jail. The POCSO Act treats girls and boys below 18 years of age as minors.
"It is high time that state authorities, its machinery, NGOs and women groups made a determined and sustained endeavour to reach out to all in schools, colleges and residential places, thereby creating public awareness on various aspects of life in case of marriage at a tender age… besides creating awareness amongst adolescents and young adults about the serious psychological and physical health issues that such a relation entails," the court observed.
According to the prosecution, a complaint was filed before the police on March 5 by the minor girl's mother about her daughter going missing since February 26.
The accused was arrested on March 6 and the girl was also recovered from his custody, it said. The girl, in her statement recorded before a magistrate, said she had willingly gone with the accused to his native place in Kolkata and they got married in a temple there and since then they have been living together.
During the trial, the youth told the court that the girl had accompanied him to Kolkata on her own and they got married there but he denied having physical relations with her. The court also noted that the marriage was accepted by the girl's mother.