ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Law Commission of India and the Debate on Age of Consent

Given the likelihood that the Law Commission of India’s recommendations will exert a persuasive force on future policy decisions on this subject, the 283rd report of the LCI on the age of consent under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 deserves engagement. While
the LCI was aware of the contestations and complications surrounding the issue of the age of consent for sexual relations, its recommendations fail to satisfactorily address those problems.

In its 283rd report released in September 2023, the Law Commission of India (LCI) commented on the highly complex issue of the age of consent for sexual interactions. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012 and the Indian Penal Code, 1860 both peg the age of consent at 18 years. This means that all persons under the age of 18 years are uniformly defined as “children” and the consent of any “child,” so defined, is deemed irrelevant in law. This means that offences under the POCSO have, so far, been “statutory rape” offences, that is, offences in which the “wrong” underpinning criminalisation is not the absence of consent, but the presumed incapacity to consent. The LCI report recommends that in limited cases, where the age difference between the de jure victim and the accused is not more than three years, the genuine consent of the de jure victim ought to give special courts1 the discretion to award a sentence lower than the prescribed statutory mandatory minimum. Whether consent is genuine or not is also to be determined by the special court, based on a set of guidelines recommended by the LCI, aimed towards ensuring that the consent was not manipulated, coerced, or induced through undue influence (LCI 2023: 116–24).

Background and Relevance

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Updated On : 13th Feb, 2024
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