New Delhi: 'Not advisable to tinker with age in POCSO cases'

New Delhi: Not advisable to tinker with age in POCSO cases

The commission argues that in doing so it will have a negative impact on the fight against child marriage and child trafficking

New Delhi : The Law Commission has proposed some amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to deal with cases wherein there is tacit approval, but not legal consent, from children aged 16 to 18 years.

The Law Commission has advised the government not to tinker with the existing age of consent under the POCSO Act and suggested introducing guided judicial discretion in the matter of sentencing in cases involving tacit approval of children in the 16-18 age bracket, arguing that doing so will have a negative impact on the fight against child marriage and child trafficking

The commission said the amendments are necessary as such cases do not merit to be dealt with the same severity as the cases that were ideally imagined to fall under the POCSO Act. Over the years, the POCSO Act, which seeks to protect children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography, has often come in conflict with the role of consent in determining the nature of relationships between adolescents.

The act defines a child as a person aged below 18. According to Section 6 of the POCSO Act, "Whoever commits aggravated penetrative sexual assault shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to imprisonment for life, which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of the natural life of that person and shall also be liable to fine, or with death."

However, the law panel has suggested that certain amendments need to be brought in the POCSO Act to remedy the situation in cases wherein there is tacit approval, though not consent in law, on part of the child aged between 16 and 18 years. The proposed changes aim to provide greater discretion to special courts in cases where the child involved in the offence is aged 16 or above and has had an intimate relationship with the accused. The commission has highlighted various factors that should be considered when determining the sentence in such cases. Under the recommended amendments, special courts would be allowed to impose a lesser sentence than the minimum prescribed under sub-section (1) of the POCSO Act.

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