The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought the Centre’s stand on a plea against the provisions of POCSO Act pertaining to mandatory reporting of sexual offences against minors to police.
A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notice on the petition by lawyer Harsh Vibhore Singhal who sought “judicial invalidation” of sections 19, 21 & 22 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act).
The court asked the central government to file its reply to the petition within six weeks.
In his plea, the petitioner said the sections are bad in law as they deprive minors of their “right to give informed consent for not reporting” the matter and violate right to life and liberty as well as privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“Sections 19, 21 & 22 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 require ‘any person’ to mandatorily report suspicion or knowledge of sexual offences involving under 18 minors to the police u/s 19, prescribes imprisonment u/s 21 for failure to do so and provides a neat safety valve u/s 22 for false reporting or for giving false information if done in good faith,” said the petition.
The plea stated that thousands of adolescents are languishing in jails for having consensual sex with minors who are also compelled to risk their life by visiting quacks for fear of being reported by approved medical centres.
The petition argued that the sections requiring mandatory reporting are untenable, arbitrary and unconstitutional and deserve to be set aside when the law is well settled that a sexual assault survivor cannot be forced to report the offence by filing an FIR. “POCSO is to protect minors from rapacious sexual offences and sexual violence by predators, pedophiles and criminals and does not aim to criminalize consensual sex. Even in sexual offences, survivors have agency to give informed consent for not reporting,” it stated.
The matter would be listed next on July 17.
(With PTI inputs)