Centre buys time in court on marital rape
The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that making marital rape a criminal offence would have both “social” and “legal” implications, seeking time to place on record its views and inputs from states and Union Territories.
Solicitor-general Tushar Mehta told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud that “apart from legal ramifications, the issue has social ramifications”, and said the Centre had sought the opinion of the states and Union Territories. He sought time from the court for filing the Centre’s response after collating the views.
The bench, which included Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala, asked the Union government to file its counter-affidavit by February 15 and posted the matter for further hearing to March 21.
On September 17 last year, the apex court had issued a formal notice to the Centre on a batch of petitions and cross-petitions challenging the validity of Explanation 2 appended to IPC Section 375, which decriminalises rape by a man of his wife provided she is not below 15 years.
The petitions and cross-petitions have come up before the apex court following a split verdict of May 11 by a two-judge division bench of Delhi High Court on the constitutional validity of the provision, following which the matter had been referred to the top court for an authoritative pronouncement.
Karnataka High Court recently upheld the rape charges filed by a woman against her husband. Aggrieved, the husband has moved the Supreme Court, saying there is no provision for prosecution under marital rape and the allegations against him are false.
Some men’s group and individuals led by advocate Vivek Narayan have opposed any move to make marital rape a criminal offence.
Various organisations like the All India Democratic Women’s Association and Youth for Equality have challenged the constitutional validity of the explanation carved out under IPC Section 375 on the ground that it is a violation of Articles 14 (right to equality), 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (life and personal liberty).
Earlier, a division bench of Delhi High Court, after elaborate hearing of the rival contentions on May 11 last year, had delivered a split verdict.
While Justice Rajiv Shakdher had ruled that the provision was unconstitutional, Justice C. Hari Shankar had differed with him and held the impugned provision as being constitutionally valid.
In view of the split verdict, the high court granted permission to the disputing parties to file appeals before the apex court as it involved “substantial questions of law”.
However, certain men’s groups and individuals moved an intervention application supporting the provision on the ground that the institution of marriage would collapse and open a Pandora’s box of false rape cases against husbands.