CHENNAI: Observing that the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act was not intended to penalise adolescents or teenagers in romantic relationships, the Madras High Court on Friday called for swift amendments to be made to the Act.
The issue pertains to a case booked against an auto driver, in his early twenties, under the Act, in 2018, for marrying a minor girl. The court made the observations while quashing criminal proceedings pending before a magistrate court after the girl’s family moved the High Court.
The family had stated that the case had caused them mental agony and that they wanted to get the girl married. Justice Anand Venkatesh, in his order, pointed out that the victim had told the court that she was in a relationship with the accused.
He added that several POCSO cases were being filed by families of adolescents and teenagers, who are involved in romantic relationships. The judge pointed out that the scheme of the POCSO Act clearly shows “....it did not intend to bring within its scope or ambit, cases of nature where adolescents or teenagers involved in romantic relationships are concerned.”
‘Legislature must change law for adolescent relationships’
Punishing an adolescent boy in a relationship with a minor girl, by treating him as an offender, was never the objective of the Act, the court said. The judge stated that the law which is meant to protect and render justice to victims of child abuse can become a tool in the hands of certain sections of the society.
“It is imperative for the court to draw a thin line that demarcates the nature of acts that should not be made to fall within the scope of the Act, for such is the severity of sentences provided under the Act, if acted upon hastily, it could lead to irreparable damage to the livelihood of youth whose actions would have only been innocuous,” the court observed.
The court also added that the legislature has to make appropriate changes in the law so that adolescent relationships are treated differently under the prevailing law. “It is high time that the legislature takes into consideration cases of this nature involving adolescents involved in relationships and swiftly brings in necessary amendments under the Act. The legislature has to keep pace with the changing societal needs and bring about necessary changes in law and more particularly in a stringent law such as the POCSO Act,” the order said.