NEW DELHI: The intention behind POCSO is to protect children from sexual exploitation but it was never meant to criminalise consensual romantic relationships between young adults, the Delhi High Court has said.
It, however, cautioned that the nature of the relationship has to be seen from facts and circumstances of each case as the survivor in some cases may face pressure to settle.
The court's observation came while granting bail to a boy who married a 17-year-old girl and was subsequently apprehended under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
It noted that in the present case, the girl was not coerced into the relationship with the boy, and it was clear from her statement that there was a romantic relationship between the two and the sexual act between them was consensual.
"In my opinion, the intention of POCSO was to protect children below the age of 18 years from sexual exploitation. It was never meant to criminalise consensual romantic relationships between young adults," said Justice Jasmeet Singh in the order.
"However, this has to be seen from the facts and circumstances of each case. There might be cases where the survivor of sexual offence, may under pressure or trauma be forced to settle," the judge added.
The court observed that a consensual relationship borne out of love should be of consideration while granting bail, and in the present case, it would be a travesty of justice to let the accused suffer in prison.
"Thus, this is not a case where the girl was coerced into the relationship with the boy. In fact, Ms. 'A', herself went to the applicant's house and asked him to marry her. The statement of the victim makes it clear that this is a romantic relationship between the two and that the sexual act involved between them was consensual," it said.
"Although the victim is a minor and hence, her consent does not have any legal bearing, I am of the opinion that the factum of a consensual relationship borne out of love should be of consideration while granting bail. To ignore the statement of the victim and let the accused suffer behind jail, in the present case, would otherwise amount to perversity of justice," the court added.
It directed that the accused be released on bail on a personal bond and a surety bond of Rs 10,000 each.
The court also asked the accused to join the investigation, surrender his passport and not indulge in any criminal activity.