The Delhi High Court has remarked that the intention of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was to protect children below the age of 18 from sexual exploitation and that it was never meant to criminalise consensual romantic relationships between young adults.
The observation was made by Justice Jasmeet Singh while granting bail to a young man, who was arrested by the Delhi Police, based on an FIR filed by the father of a minor girl who accused him of raping and kidnapping his 17-year-old daughter with intent to compel her to marriage.
The young man had moved the court for bail, stating that he had been in custody since December 31, 2021.
His counsel argued before the court that this is a case where the girl came with the young man out of her own will.
The counsel said on October 27 the girl came to the house of the man and the next day they went to Punjab and got married. The counsel further said that the girl had last year approached the High Court of Punjab and Haryana stating that she had married the young man out of her own will.
Subsequently, the High Court of Punjab and Haryana had directed the police to provide adequate and appropriate protection to the girl and her husband.
Taking note of the submission, Justice Singh said, “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 criminalise 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,” he cautioned.
Justice Singh said he interacted with the girl in the chamber in the presence of public prosecutor and she told him that at the time of her marriage, she was 17 years of age. She also told the judge that she got married of her own free will, without any undue influence, threat, pressure or coercion and even today wants to stay with him.
“This is not a case where the girl was coerced into the relationship with the boy. In fact, Ms. ‘A’ (the girl), herself went to the applicant’s house and asked him to marry her,” Justice Singh noted, adding, “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,” he observed.
“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 Delhi HC said in its October 20 order while granting bail to the man.