New Delhi: The Law Commission’s 22nd report, submitted to the Union Law Ministry, has called for maintaining the current age of consent at 18 under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act. In a significant move, the panel has cautioned against lowering the age of consent to 16 years, asserting that such a change could have far-reaching, unintended consequences.
Age of Consent: A crucial aspect
At present, the age of consent in India stands at 18, a threshold that defines when an individual is considered legally capable of providing consent for sexual relations. The Law Commission, in its report submitted on a recent Friday, voiced strong reservations against any reduction in this age limit.
The Commission has underscored that lowering the age of consent to 16 could result in “unintended consequences” of a grave nature. It would, in particular, directly impact efforts to combat child marriage and child trafficking. The report warns that decriminalizing sexual relations between 16 to 18-year-olds could undermine the effectiveness of the POCSO Act, rendering it a symbolic legal document without substantial practical impact.
Balancing act: Guided judicial discretion
Instead of advocating a uniform approach, the Commission has suggested crucial amendments to the Act. These amendments are intended to ensure that cases involving tacit consent from both parties are not treated as severely as those that fall squarely within the legislation. The proposal advocates for the introduction of guided judicial discretion when sentencing cases involving tacit approval between children aged 16 to 18.
This nuanced approach aims to strike a balance between acknowledging consensual romantic relationships among minors while simultaneously protecting them from potential sexual exploitation. By introducing discretion in the legal framework, the Commission seeks to create a more responsive and balanced approach to cases involving minors within the 16-18 age bracket.
As the recommendations of the Law Commission make their way into the national discourse, the complex issue of age of consent continues to evolve, reflecting the nuances of modern society and the legal system’s need to adapt to new challenges.