The Meghalaya High Court stated, acts of reciprocal love and affection between a young couple do not qualify as “sexual assault” under the POCSO Act, which protects children from sexual offenses.
The bench of Justice W. Diengdoh noted in his ruling that “considering the peculiar facts and circumstances of a particular case, such as in the case of a boyfriend and girlfriend, particularly if both of them are young, the term “sexual assault” as could be understood under the Act.
The accused juvenile and the mother of his girlfriend each submitted a plea to have the case dismissed. The case was opened following the minor girl’s disappearance on December 11, 2020, and December 16, 2020, while she was living with her instructor at a school. Her mother had reported the girl missing after learning of it to the neighbourhood police department.
The young girl acknowledged having physical intercourse with the defendant during her statement before a magistrate, stating that it was consensual and of her own free will. However, after discovering the first evidence against the accused, the investigating officer filed a chargesheet against him.
When the petitioners sought the High Court on an understanding to have the case against the accused dismissed, the case was brought to trial before the Special Judge (POCSO), Shillong. The Court observed that the POCSO Act’s strict provisions were created with the intention of addressing the severe mental damage and the grave consequences that such acts of sexual assault could have on their young victims.
The Court noted that “what is even more commonplace now is what is characterised as “good touch” and “bad touch,” where merely the appearance of a sexual undertone in the way an alleged perpetrator caresses a young victim would render him liable for prosecution under the relevant provisions of the law.
The Court dismissed the case against the accused juvenile and exonerated him of all liability in the criminal case, but it noted that in situations like these, where a lover and girlfriend engage in reciprocal gestures of love, the POCSO Act could not be enforced.