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No plan to reduce age of consent to 16: Centre | Latest News India

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The government is not considering any proposal to reduce the age of consent for consensual relationships from 18 to 16 , the union ministry of women and child development (WCD) informed Parliament on Wednesday.

Responding to a question whether the government is considering lowering the age of consent for consensual relationships to 16 years from the present 18 years, WCD minister Smriti Irani in a written statement said that the question “does not arise”.

Government’s remark came days after the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud said that the legislature must address concerns related to the age of consent under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act, which criminalises consensual sexual activities even in ‘romantic’ relationships for those under the age of 18.

The CJI’s remarks came against the backdrop of several high courts recently raising similar concerns and demanding that “romantic relations” between adolescents should not be criminalised.

In her response, Irani said the Pocso Act, 2012 enacted to safeguard children from sexual abuse and sexual offences clearly defines a child as any person below the age of 18 years. “The Act was further amended in 2019 to introduce more stringent punishment, including death penalty for committing sexual crimes on children, with a view to deter the perpetrators and prevent such crimes against children,” she said.

“In case of commission of offence by child, Section 34 under Pocso Act already provides procedure in case of commission of offence by child and determination of age by Special Court,” the minister said.

She further said that if any question arises in any proceeding before the Special Court whether a person is a child or not, such question shall be determined by the Special Court after satisfying itself about the age of such person and it shall record in writing its reasons for such determination. “Additionally, the Majority Act, 1875, which was amended in 1999, provides 18 years as the age for attainment of majority,” she said.

Last month, the Delhi high court noted that the intention of the Pocso Act was to protect children from sexual exploitation and it was “never meant to criminalise consensual romantic relationships between young adults”.

The Meghalaya high court also observed in November that acts of mutual love and affection between a young couple will not amount to “sexual assault” under the concerned law. The Karnataka high court in November directed the Law Commission of India to reconsider the age of consent .

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