AGE OF MATURITY- AN ARBITRARY ASSUMPTION
This article has been authored by Anshit Minocha and Divyanshu Dubey, third year students at UPES, Dehradun.
It is accurately and duly said by Sir Martin Luther King Jr. “Age is just a number. It ferries no density. The absolute density is in the brunts”. However, in the modern statutes, there is a complete elimination and repudiation of the same. The age of 18 years have been celebrated immeasurably by an individual because the world no longer sees him/her as a child, instead a separate “Adult” tag is attached to his personality. However, there have been several instances where the Judiciary and Legislature have miserably failed to administer a justification for differentiating people based on different age bars for different legislations. The legal age of marriage for a male individual remains 21 years in India, and for a female, it exists to be 18 years. The legal age of balloting is also witnessed to be 18 years at present.
Provisions of statutes like the Indian Penal Code 1860, Section 82 provides that no juvenile under the age of 7 years who commits a criminal offence shall be held liable, but it is observed that the age of being immune from criminal liability is much more distinct in the developed countries like The United States of America fixing the age at 10 years. The Legislature or the Judiciary do not provide any reason for the distinctiveness of the two ages.
The Majority Act of 1875 states that each person is a major until and unless he has gained the age of 18 years. But the main issue remains, what is the ground on which the law or judiciary is declaring and conclusively deciding the age of majority?
The age of maturity is 18 years, and non-actuality of consent is a fundamental condition for the fulfillment of the heinous crime of rape. The Indian Penal Code of 1860 does not distinguish or observe a line of difference between consent by a person who is below the age of 18 years and a person who has suffered rape, which conjectures that the consent which is given by the teenagers under the age of 18 years is invalid and thus would amount to rape even if given with due experience and wisdom. There is no scientific confirmation that proves that maturity comes at a particular age, and specifically at the age of 18 years.
There have been distinct instances where it has been demonstrated that a minor under the age of 18 years is sophisticated or has attained a set of maturity and vice versa. Also, it has not been specifically substantiated as to what type of maturity is required to enter into a sexual intercourse.
Analysis of Majority Act of India
The Majority Act, 1875 determines the age of maturity for the child. The age of maturity is the moment when a person ceases to be considered as minor and is granted with all the legal rights as soon as he/she becomes major or mature. The Majority Act of India sets up the age for majority at 18 years and the child, who reaches or crosses the 18 years of age, becomes a responsible adult and thereby becomes eligible to vote in elections, to drive the car, to marry (if female), to apply for a passport and to give consent for sexual intercourse (if female), etc.
Now, the main questions here are:
i. Why only the age of 18 years has been set up as the threshold for the childhood and beginning of the adulthood?
ii. Was there any scientific reason for doing this or it was just an assumption while framing the law of majority?
As far as the above-mentioned issues are concerned, the only possible answer to these questions is “perception”. The framers of the law just thought about the number that can generally fit for the society and thereby believed that the age of 18 can be the basic age at which the person may be called as ‘major’, this sort of reasoning cannot be considered as scientific rather it is a mere assumption because this reasoning can be contradicted by some examples like Alexander the Great, Mughal Emperor Akbar, Roman emperor Julius Caesar who were enthroned to rule at the age of just 14 or 16 years and each emerged as a great ruler.
The famous author Edwin Louis Cole has appropriately mentioned that “Maturity comes not with age but, with acceptance of responsibility. You are only young once but immaturity can last a lifetime”. But, on the contrary, this Majority Act is based upon the age decided based on perception and one can only become mature when the law declares the one to be, there is no other way to be called as a mature being which is an arbitrary feature of the law related to the age of majority. The flaws of this Act have been further explained through the elaborated example of the minor’s consent issue in the cases of rape.
Due to arbitrariness of this statute, the government may come up with some additional ways through which the minors of special cases may gain legal majority.
Relevancy of Minor’s Consent in Rape Matters
The age of adolescence and puberty is such in which many of the minors end up taking up the wrong steps or indeed such steps which are blamed and condemned by the society and also in certain circumstances by the forthcoming era. To ensure that no such steps are taken by any of the adolescents or the teenagers, various acts like the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act 2012, Juvenile Justice Act 2015, Prohibition of Child Marriage 2006, etc. having the similar objective and purpose have been passed.
In Harpal Singh And Another vs. State of Himachal Pradesh, Satish Kumar Jayanti Lal Dadgar vs. State of Gujarat, State of Haryana vs. Raja Ram, Iqbal vs. State of Kerala, Prakash vs. State of Haryana, the Hon’ble Courts held the that the consent given by a teenager or minor who is under the age of 18 years is insignificant and trivial. The priority has not been given to the adolescents under the age of 18 years because their mental accommodation is not proven to act in such a way to fathom the consequences of getting into a sexual intercourse and giving a grant to the consent would thus enhance the possibility of indulging into commission of assorted crimes.
Biologists have indeed declined to confirm and determine that maturity reaches to an individual at a specific age, or particularly in the age of 18 years. Each individual possesses the capability of definitively determining as to what is right and what is not for the same and a mere possession of this right of the individual with the State is not acceptable and digestible. According to Article 21 of the Constitution, no person shall be destitute of exercising his right to life and personal liberty which extends to non-residents of India and also the mere opportunity of a particular person to enter into a sexual relationship to which he/she consents is his utmost right.
Punishing an individual who has entered into a consensual sexual relationship because the other person was merely a month or unreasonable amount of time distant from acquiring the age of 18 years would in any case not be condoned or validated, but he would still be convicted. The quick solution of this dilemma would be compressing the age limit of consensual rape to any reasonable age for instance 15 or 16 because relatively a teenager of that age is less likely to discern the corollary of entering into sexual intercourse.
A person remains immature, whatever his age, as long as he thinks of himself as an exception to the human race; this is a quote by a famous writer Harry Allen Overstreet, which stands quite analogous with the basic essence of the article. Matures are the ones who feel like a mature, and there is no age barrier for maturity, a 15-year boy may behave more maturely than a 25-year old man. Maturity lies in the attitude of the one which should not be ignored by the law. Therefore, the Majority Act of India should be reformed or the policies of the government should be reformed to grant a legal responsibility to those who are mature not, just the ones who have crossed the benchmark of 18 years.