The Court opined that the consent given by a girl aged above 16 years may have to be considered.

In a significant observation, the Karnataka High Court has said that in view of the ground realities, it is imperative for the Law Commission to rethink on the age of consent under the POCSO Act.

“Having come across several cases relating to minor girls above the age of 16 years having fallen in love and eloped and in the meantime, having had sexual intercourse with the boy, we are of the considered opinion that the Law Commission of India would have to rethink on the age criteria, so as to take into consideration the ground realities. The aspect of consent even by a girl of 16 years and above would have to be considered if there is indeed an offence under the IPC and/or POCSO Act,” the bench of Justice Suraj Govindraj and Justice G. Basavaraja remarked.

As per the existing law, the age of consent for sex is 18 years. Consent given by a girl aged below 18 years is not regarded as valid consent and sexual intercourse with a minor girl amounts to offence of rape.

Essentially, the Court observed thus while hearing a state appeal challenging the acquittal of a Rape and POCSO Act accused, who had eloped with a 17-year-old girl and indulged in sexual intercourse with her in the year 2017.

Although the parents of the girl lodged a complaint, all the prosecution witnesses turned hostile and while the matter continued, the accused and the victim got married and the victim also gave birth to two children. In view of the state of things, the trial court acquitted the accused of the charges under Section 376(2)(j) as also Sections 5(1) and 6 of the POCSO Act.

Upholding the acquittal order, the High Court also stressed upon the need to educate the students, from IX standard onwards, on the aspects of the POCSO Act to make them understand such acts which are criminalized under the POCSO Act as also under the Indian Penal Code.

In view of this observation, the Court also directed the Principal Secretary in the State Education Department to constitute a Committee to formulate suitable education material in this regard and thereafter, issue necessary directions to all schools, that students are to be educated and forewarned of the consequence of their action, if in violation of the POCSO Act or the IPC.

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