Law Commission advises against changing age of consent under Pocso Act, suggests guided judicial discretion

The 22nd Law Commission has recommended that the government avoid making any changes to the current minimum age of consent specified in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, as reported by the PTI news agency. In their report submitted to the Union law ministry, the commission has suggested the introduction of guided judicial discretion for determining sentences in cases involving the implied consent of individuals aged 16 to 18.

Currently, the age of consent in India remains at 18.

Chaired by Ritu Raj Awasthi, the panel presented two reports to the Union law ministry—one addressing the minimum age of consent under the POCSO Act and the other focusing on the online submission of First Information Reports (FIRs).

While the commission proposed legislative amendments to address situations where individuals between the ages of 16 and 18 may have provided tacit consent, they advised against modifying the minimum age of consent. Their reasoning is that lowering the age of consent would have a direct and adverse impact on efforts to combat child marriage and child trafficking.

This development arises within an ongoing discourse surrounding the age of consent under the POCSO Act. In recent years, several high courts have expressed concerns that consensual relationships among teenagers were being criminalized under the stringent 2012 law intended to safeguard children from sexual violence.

In December 2022, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud urged lawmakers to address the \”growing concern\” surrounding the criminalization of adolescents involved in consensual sexual activity.

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