This article has been authored by Pooja Kaul, a a third-year BA.LLB student at Delhi metropolitan Education, GGSIP University, New Delhi
“Punishing an adolescent boy who steps into a relationship with a minor girl by treating him as an offender, was never the objective of the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act” as remarked by the Madras High Court while emphasizing on how the families generally abuse the POCSO Act to litigate the husbands of their teenage daughters. In the case of Vijayalakshmi and Anr. v. State and Anr, crl.M.P.No.109 of 2021, where this great judgment was made on 27th January 2021, at the time of the incident, a young man in his 20s was accused of marrying and having an intimate relationship with a minor under the age of 16. The complaint was filed by the girl’s mother in accordance with section 366 of the IPC, section 6 and 9 of the POCSO Act, and section 9 of the Prohibition of Child Marriage act. It was also pointed out that it was the girl who insisted on running away and marrying the defendant. However, the mother of the girl approached the police saying that she doesn't want to carry the case forward as she wants her daughter to settle down in her life and these criminal proceedings are causing mental torture to the petitioner and that she doesn't want to undergo this torture any further and wants to revoke these proceedings. The court agreed and allowed the woman's petition and revoked the criminal proceedings against the respondent. Justice N Anand Venkatesh in his order stated that the victim girl had told the court that she and the accused knew each other from before and were involved in a relationship. He added in his judgment that many cases which were filed under the POCSO Act were being filed by the families of the adolescent couples and that the scheme of the POCSO Act did not intend to bring such cases where teenagers and young peoples are involved in a romantic relationship are concerned he further stated that “An adolescent boy and girl who are in the grips of their hormones and biological changes, whose decision-making ability is yet to fully develop, should essentially receive the support and guidance of their parents as well as the society at large. These incidents should never be perceived from an adult's point of view and such an understanding will lead to lack of empathy”, as people are misusing the law, it has become a tool for certain sections of the society as they are not understanding as to how rigorous and strict the law is which was basically enacted for the protection of children from child abuse and to provide them justice and not put the other person into hardship. There are thousands of cases like these in which the males are considered as the wrongdoers on the other hand females are considered as the victims. Due to which males have to go through a lot of adversity as the nature of the act is very stringent.
Misuse of the POCSO Act
The POCSO Act was passed in 2012 for the protection of children from sexual abuse in various sections of the society but wasn’t meant to criminalize consenting teenage couples as there are many cases where the law has been misused against the couples. It was examined thoroughly in the case of Sabari v. Inspector of Police, how individuals who are in their adolescence stage are engaged in love affairs and how they eventually end up in a criminal case filed for an offense under the POCSO Act. The Madras High Court affirmed that, "When this case was taken up for hearing, this Court became concerned about the growing incidence of offenses under the POCSO Act on one side and also the rigorous imprisonment envisaged in the Act. Sometimes it happens that such offenses are slapped against teenagers, who fall victim to the application of the POCSO Act at a young age without understanding the implication of the severity of the enactment." In this case, the court also recommended that the POCSO Act be used as a ‘warning’ before the screening of films containing teenage roles that imply a relationship between men and women. The majority of the cases which are booked under the POCSO Act are the teenage consenting couples. Due to the unrestrained ill-use of the Act by the families of the adolescents have caught up adolescent boys in a condition that when the case reaches to its logical end, there will be no protection for them and their youthful life will come to an end. And as such people who are accused of the crime of this nature under this Act will be tormented throughout their life because such is the harshness of the punishments under this Act.
To sum up, everything that has been stated so far, the main issue which needs more attention is to prevent the misuse of the POCSO Act by the society and the family members of adolescents, some essential amendments should be made in the Act in such a way that it clearly signifies those actions which may be taken under this Act. It's high time to make vital changes in the law that will acknowledge those actions which will be considered under this Act and merely not make consenting teenage relationships an offense. It needs to be conveyed to the people that misusing the Act against adolescent boys and treating them like criminals, was never the aim of the POCSO Act and this act by the families and the society at large can't be allowed to go on any further.
It is very important to put a halt to this and make some indispensable changes in the law that will not damage the livelihood of the adolescents whose actions have been harmless and done in their immature stage of life. As society is changing, the legislature should also meet with the needs and make suitable modifications for the society in the law, and particularly in those laws which are rigid in nature just like the POCSO Act and not make it gender biased so that the valuable life of the adolescent male is not hampered for the act which he did at the adolescent stage of his life.