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Law Commission Rejects Changing Age of Consent Under POCSO Act

The 22nd Law Commission, chaired by Justice (retd) Ritu Raj Awasthi, has concluded that it is not advisable to modify the existing age of consent under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). The Commission examined the age criteria of 18 years for consent in response to references from the High Courts of Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. These courts had raised concerns about cases involving minor girls above the age of 16 engaging in romantic relationships, eloping, and having sexual intercourse with boys, which attracted POCSO Act provisions.

They requested amendments to vest discretionary power in the Special Judge for cases where de facto consent was apparent on the part of the girl child or when such relationships resulted in marriage. After consultations with various stakeholders, including the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the Commission suggested introducing guided judicial discretion in sentencing for such cases but maintained the existing age of consent.