Madhya Pradesh High Court suggests lowering the age of consent back to 16 years

‘Fabric of society has been disturbed due to the amendment increasing age of consent to 18 years’ – Madhya Pradesh High Court suggests lowering the age of consent back to 16 years

The Hon’ble Madhya Pradesh High Court, on 27th of June, 2023, noted the multiple incidents of adolecent men being unfairly involved in criminal proceedings due to their involvement in innocent romantic relationships with females who are between 16 and 18 years of age. The Hon’ble High Court requested the Union of India to reconsider changing the age for valid consent to 16 years, observing that: –

In these cases, male persons are not at all criminal. It is only a matter of age when they come into contact with female and develop physical relationship. Only due to this reason, lawmakers in IPC when it came into force put the age of female as 16 years since they were well aware of the aforesaid facts. Generally, girls and boys of adolescents age develop friendship and thereafter, due to attraction make physical relationship. But, due to this rider boy is treated like a criminal in the society.

Justice Deepak Kumar Agarwal shared his experience in dealing with such cases under the POCSO Act wherein the male, who is himself an adolescent, and has not completely developed his own decision making process, comes in touch with a woman, and the two become romantically attracted. He highlights how this then leads to criminal proceedings against the male, who is then treated as a criminal in society. The Hon’ble Judge submitted that nowadays, due to the presence of Social Media, and consequently higher levels of awareness, children are reaching puberty much sooner, and during this period, when their bodies and minds are changing, it is easy for them to succumb to the physical attraction which is inherently present between males and females. The Hon’ble Judge stated that: –

Before parting with the case, this Court would like to share its experience as a Judge that before amendments in IPC under Section 375 of IPC regarding age of prosecutrix for the purpose of consent that was 16 years and subsequently enhanced by amendment upto 18 years due to this amendment, fabric of society has been disturbed. Now a days, every male or female near theage of 14 years due to social media awareness and easily accessible internet connectivity is getting puberty in early age. Owing to this, female and male child are getting attraction and these attractions are resulting into physical relationship with consent.

The Hon’ble Court concluded by exclaiming about the unfairness of the current situation wherein young men are being treated as criminals for getting into completely consentual relationships, and the rest of their lives are ruined because of the same. Justice Deepak Kumar Agarwal, while quashing all the criminal proceediungs against the petitioner, put in one last plea to the Government of India to consider lowering the age of consent back to 16 years of age. The Hon’ble Judge submitted that: –

Today, most of criminal cases in which prosecutrix is under 18 years of age, due to aforesaid anomaly, injustice is going on with adolescent boys. Thus, I request Government of India to think over the matter for reducing the age of prosecutrix from 18 to 16 years as earlier before amendments so that injustice should be redressed.

Read Judgement: Rahul Chandel Jatav vs The State of Maharashtra and others. Misc. Criminal Cases no. 24691 of 2023

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