Do not tinker consent age, amend POCSO Act: Law panel

The Law Commission of India on Friday advised the government not to reduce the existing age of consent from 18 to 16 years under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, saying else it could provide a safe harbour to coerce minors into subjugation, marital rape and other forms of abuse, including trafficking.

The Act criminalises all sexual activity for those under the age of 18 years regardless of mutual consent. To address the problem, the panel suggested giving limited discretion on sentencing to special courts in cases of mutual consent.

Carving out a limited judicial discretion at the stage of sentencing by a special court is more reasonable if consent is established, the panel said. “It has to be further ensured that such a discretionary power is provided in such a manner that it is well guided and insulated from any potential misuse as far as possible. In this context, as to when such a discretion will come into play and who will determine if at all it applies, becomes relevant,” the Commission said in its Report No. 283 titled “Age of Consent under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.”