Mar­riages help­ing se­cure ac­quit­tals in Pocso cases?

Case Study Stirs De­bate On Re­view Of Age Of Con­sent

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION - Am­bika.Pan­dit @times­group.com

New Delhi: In as many as 90 cases reg­is­tered un­der Pro­tec­tion of Chil­dren Against Sex­ual Of­fences Act over five years across dis­trict courts in Ker­ala, the rea­son for ac­quit­tal lay in the fact that the ac­cused mar­ried the sur­vivor and the lat­ter tes­ti­fied to the same. At least three of these sur­vivors who mar­ried the ac­cused were just 15-years-old at the time of oc­cur­rence of the of­fence and three oth­ers were even younger. In around 68 cases, the sur­vivor was in the age group of 16-17 years at the time of the oc­cur­rence of the of­fence.

At a con­sul­ta­tion or­gan­ised by vol­un­tary or­gan­i­sa­tion “In­de­pen­dent Thought” in the cap­i­tal on com­bat­ing child mar­riage and as­so­ci­ated chal­lenges Cen­tre for Child Rights and the Fo­rum Against Sex­ual Ex­ploita­tion of Chil­dren (FACSE), shows that many ac­quit­tals in Pocso cases have hap­pened as the ac­cused and sur­vivor were in a “ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship”. This data brings fo­cus on the is­sue of re­view of the age of con­sent de­bate in the con­text of Pocso as far as con­sen­sual sex be­tween mi­nors is con­cerned.

Based on data col­lected for 2012-15, it was re­vealed that out of 386 cases dis­posed of in Delhi and Mum­bai, 92 cases (24%) ended in con­vic­tion. More than three-fourths of the dis­posed cases in Delhi - 286 cases (78%), were ac­quit­tals. Most ac­quit­tals in Delhi were in cases re­lat­ing to chil­dren aged 16 to 18 years, whereas in Mum­bai, it was in cases of chil­dren aged 13-15 years. Max­i­mum ac­quit­tals where the ac­cused/of­fender was ‘known’ to the child are cases of ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship (39%), fol­lowed by cases where the ac­cused/of­fender is a neigh­bour (25%), and cases where the ac­cused/of­fender is a rel­a­tive (19%).

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