With reference to the POCSO Act, what is the recent verdict of the Supreme Court regarding mental age? Critically discuss with your own opinion on the same.

The apex court has upheld the basic provisions of the POSCO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act and explicitly stated that the term “age” cannot stand for the “mental age” as the primary motive behind the Act was to lay stress on children i.e. below 18 years of age. 

  • The Apex Court stated that the Act is gender neutral and addition of mental competence of the victim or the level of mental retardation will harm the legislation significantly. 
  • Further any extension to the age clause will warrant plenty bizarre situations as there are no further statutory provisions being defined. 
  • The Court in the same light has also ruled out the possibility of inclusion of the mental does not fall under the ambit of purposive interpretation regarding POSCO Act. Purposive interpretation is used when courts use extra materials from the pre-enactment phase of the legislation within the context of the purpose of the law.    

The verdict maintained the Act as such in order to refrain from harming the basic intent or language of the Parliament as it will be tantamount to encroaching the legislative function. The Act is broadly child friendly and the processes as it allows for ease of recording the statement, special courts and also speedy trials, etc. However, the Act only considers the biological age of the child completely ignoring  adults with mental retardation, cerebral palsy etc. where mental age is restricted to below 18 despite the biological age. Treating such victims at par with other adult victims is not justified as they are not aware of the set of events which went by and have no clue about the consequences.  Special provisions for such victims is necessary to make the Act complete. It will not harm the intent but widen the perspective of the Act.

Question for UPSC Mains:
With reference to the POCSO Act, what is the recent verdict of the Supreme Court regarding mental age? Critically discuss with your own opinion on the same.

Published: July 31, 2017 | Modified:October 13, 2020

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