Significant challenges in applying POCSO to cases involving relationships between young adults because of the definition of “Child”: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday observed that it has faced certain difficulties while considering the applicability of Protection Of Children From Sexual Offences, 2012 (POCSO) Act in cases where girls slightly below 18 years enters into physical intimacy with another adult.

The petition was filed in opposition to a Madras High Court ruling in Maruthupandi v. State, which held that even if a young woman falls in love and has a consensual relationship with her partner, the POCSO Act’s provisions shall be applied to that person.

The Madras High Court affirmed a man’s conviction under Section 6 of the POCSO Act, 2012, for indulging in sexual intercourse with a minor who was 17 years and 10 months old. The man filed a plea before the court appealing that decision.

Advocate Rahul Shyam Bhandari, who represented the petitioner boy, said that the couples’ relationship was consensual and that they had been married and living together for more than four years at this point.

Additionally, the petitioner requested the court to take into account POCSO’s application in situations when relationships are consensual. He had cited a number of such instances that resulted in mistreatment and harassment of a couple, notably the boy who was imprisoned despite the girl’s permission.

The attorney went on to say that the punishment in the current instance was similarly stayed by the High Court under the excuse that the youngster was married.

Dr. Joseph Aristotle, the attorney who spoke on behalf of the State Government, claimed that the POCSO Act was intended to safeguard females who had lost their “choice.” He informed the Bench that she had an abortion in the current instance.

The Bench also noted that charges against men are typically brought by parents of children under POCSO as the hearing went on.

Aristotle said that the girl should have the freedom to go before the court if her circumstances warrant it.

The action was subsequently continued by the Court until September 9, when Bhandari was required to present a copy of the marriage license.