Supreme Court Seeks Centre’s Response On Pleas Seeking Criminalisation Of Marital Rape

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday sought the Centre’s response on a batch of petitions related to the criminalisation of marital rape. A bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and comprising Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala asked the Union government to file its response on the issue by February 15. The final hearing on the pleas would commence on March 21, the CJI said.

Delhi HC’s split verdict

A division bench of the Delhi High Court delivered a split verdict in May last year on petitions seeking the criminalisation of marital rape. While one judge said “legitimate expectation of sex” is an “inexorable” aspect of marriage, the other said the “right to withdraw consent at any given point in time forms the core of the woman’s right to life and liberty.”

The pleas

  • One of the petitions has been filed by Khushboo Saifi, related to the Delhi High Court’s split verdict on the issue.
  • Another plea has been filed by a man against the Karnataka High Court verdict, which refused to quash rape charges filed by a wife against her husband. “A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the ‘husband’ on the woman ‘wife’,” a single-judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna of the Karnataka High Court said in March 2022. The “age-old…regressive” thought that “husbands are the rulers of their wives, their body, mind, and soul should be effaced,” the court said.
  • Among the other pleas filed before the apex court, some have challenged the constitutional validity of the marital rape exception under Section 375 of the IPC. Section 375 defines rape and lists seven notions of consent, which, if vitiated, would constitute the offence of rape by a man. However, the provision contains a crucial exemption: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.”

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