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Rape let-off for married man

- No proof of inducement: SC

New Delhi, April 5: The Supreme Court has acquitted a married man of rape, holding that the victim was educated and mature enough to understand the consequences of an illicit affair.

The apex court said the illegal relationship was rooted in infatuation and hence convict Vinod Kumar, a resident of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, could not be held guilty of rape.

“We are in no manner of doubt that in the conspectus that unfolds itself in the present case, the prosecutrix was aware that the appellant was already married but, possibly because a polygamous relationship was not anathema to her because of the faith which she adheres to, the prosecutrix was willing to start a home with the appellant.

“It cannot be concluded beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant is culpable for the offence of rape; nay, reason relentlessly points to the commission of consensual sexual relationship, which was brought to an abrupt end by the appearance in the scene of the uncle of the prosecutrix,” a bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Vikramjit Sen said on Friday.

Kumar, a Hindu, and the woman, a Muslim, are said to have fallen in love while studying at a university in 2000 and got married in 2001. The uncle of the victim tracked her down and took her away. Subsequently, they lodged a rape case against Kumar, alleging that he misled her of being a bachelor and compelled her to enter into a sexual relationship with the promise of marriage.

The contention was denied by Kumar who said the victim had threatened suicide if he did not marry her. He claimed that she said her religion was not opposed to polygamy provided he converted.

A sessions court, however, held the man guilty and awarded him seven years of rigorous imprisonment. Kerala High Court affirmed the sentence, following which he appealed in the Supreme Court.

Upholding his appeal, the apex court said: “First, the prosecutrix is a graduate and, even otherwise, is not a gullible woman of feeble intellect as is evident from her conduct in completing her examination successfully even on the eventful day, i.e. 19.4.2000 (when she eloped).”

The court added: “In fact, she has displayed mental maturity of an advanced and unusual scale. We are convinced that she was aware that a legal marriage could not be performed and, therefore, was content for the time being that an agreement for marriage be executed,” said Justice Sen, writing the judgment.

The judge was referring to the fact the woman had entered into a marriage agreement with Kumar at a sub-registrar office.

The bench said that if the accused was a bachelor, there would have been no impediment whatsoever for them to marry under the Special Marriage Act.

“We cannot discount the statement attributed to the prosecutrix that her faith permitted polygamy; on extrapolation it would indicate that she was aware that the appellant was already married,” Justice Sen said.

“It is not possible to convict a person who did not hold out any promise or make any misstatement of facts or law or who presented a false scenario which had the consequence of inducing the other party into the commission of an act,” the court said.

The bench said rape is indeed a reprehensible act and every perpetrator should be punished expeditiously and strictly. However, this is only possible when guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The court ticked off Kumar, saying he is not an innocent man inasmuch as he had willy-nilly entered into a relationship with the woman in violation of his matrimonial vows and paternal duties.

“If he has suffered incarceration for an offence for which he is not culpable, he should realise that retribution in another form has duly visited him. It can only be hoped that his wife will find in herself the fortitude to forgive so that their family may be united again and may rediscover happiness, as avowedly the prosecutrix has found,” the court said.