Adolescent love can't be controlled, judges have to be careful in POCSO bail cases: Delhi HC
Granting bail for two months to a young man in a POCSO case arising from his consensual relationship with a minor girl, the Delhi High Court has said teenage psychology and adolescent love cannot be controlled by courts and judges have to be careful while handling bail pleas in such cases.
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said although a minor's consent may be of no value in the eyes of law, the court is "not dealing with criminals" in cases of elopement of adolescent couples but "teenage individuals who wanted to live their life as they deemed fit being in love".
The court noted in the present case, the prosecutrix and the accused were stated to be 16 and 19 years of age, respectively, at the relevant time and were now going to get married at the end of the month, and directed the latter be released for two months.
"The main character i.E. The present accused is not a criminal, but was merely in love and at the instance of her lady love, being unaware of the nitty-gritties of law, had taken her to a place which was 2200 km away from Delhi to lead a peaceful life...Love of course did not understand or knew the bar of age of consent as the lovers only knew that they have right to love and lead life as they thought fit for themselves," said the court in its order dated May 8.
"Considering the overall facts and circumstances of the case, accused/applicant is admitted to bail, for a period of two months from the date of release, on furnishing personal bond in the sum of Rs.10,000/- with one surety of like amount," it ordered.
The court clarified that every case of such nature has to be adjudged on its own peculiar facts and circumstances, and the age being in shadow of doubt as well as the consistency in the statement of the prosecutrix and lack of inducement or threat in such cases needed to be considered.
The FIR in the present case was lodged on a missing-person complaint by the sister of the prosecutrix in 2021 for alleged commission of offences under the Indian Penal Code and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The couple was subsequently found in Chennai and the prosecutrix maintained that she was in a relationship with the accused and they ran away at her behest.
"Though, the entire story reads like story of a romantic novel or a film about teenage love, in real life, this court notes that it had two main characters in their teens who loved each other, supported each other and somehow wanted their relationship in marriage to be validated, and for that, the only idea that came to the mind of the prosecutrix was giving birth to a child from their union," observed the court.
It added that adolescent love has to be scrutinised in the backdrop of the parties' real life situations and teenagers who "try to imitate romantic culture of films and novels" remain unaware about the laws and the age of consent.
"The prosecutrix and the accused herein might have made a mistake in the affairs of the heart, however, the teenage psychology and adolescent love cannot be controlled by the Courts and therefore the judges have to be careful while rejecting or granting bail in such cases depending on the facts and circumstances of each case," said the court.
"The social factors and forces that operate in any given case and the circumstances of cases of adolescent love reveal in a sizable percentage of cases that they may want to marry and settle down with each other," it added.
The court underscored that in such cases of teenage love, "genuine innocent teenage boys and girls" languish in jail or in protection home, which has a negative impact on their future too.
"This court notes that in such cases, confinement in jail will cause distress and will impact the psychological health of the accused also. The court, however, is bound by the law as it is and therefore, at this stage, in such circumstances can only direct that the accused be granted his freedom of bail and not languish in jail," said the court.
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