Thirty years after he was charged with raping a girl, a Mumbai court has acquitted a 46-year-old man, observing that at the time of the incident, consensual sex with a girl above 16 was not a crime.

The man was 16 years-old at that time when the case was registered against him at the Airport police station in suburban Andheri in 1988.

He was accused of “enticing” a 17-year-old girl from the custody of her parents by promising to marry her and raped her.

The accused told the court that he had a love affair with the girl.

Principal sessions judge P V Ganediwala acquitted the accused (his name not disclosed) of all charges last week, observing that the relationship was consensual.

“From the testimony of the victim, it appears that she consented for the sexual intercourse. At the relevant time, she was above 16 years of age. As per Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, in its applicability in the year 1988, consensual sexual intercourse with a girl above 16 years of age was excluded from the definition of rape,” the judge said.

“The age of accused was also 16 years. By no stretch of imagination it can be said that he enticed the girl of age 17 years from the legal custody of her parents and committed rape,” the judge said.

Under the current law, the age of consent for sexual intercourse is 18, a city-based lawyer said.

According to the prosecution, the alleged incident took place in January 1988. The girl’s parents had filed a police complaint against the accused, a neighbour, when she did not return home and was later found at his house.