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Sex on Pretext of Marriage Not Always Rape: Delhi High Court Acquits Man of Charges

File photo of Delhi High Court

File photo of Delhi High Court

Justice Vibhu Bakhru observed that in many instances, people become physically intimate with their partner after marriage is promised. But in case of a couple who have been together for a longer period of time, this does not apply and hence it cannot be called the same in such cases.

In a significant observation on gender-related crimes, the Delhi High Court, while hearing a rape case on Thursday, observed that sex with the promise of marriage does not conform to the definitions of rape if the woman continues to be physically intimate with the man over a significantly long period of time, TOI reported.

The court was hearing a case filed by a woman who had been in an on-off relationship with a man for several months, the court noted that "a promise of marriage cannot be held as an inducement for engaging in sex over a protracted and indefinite period of time."

While looking over the details of the case, Justice Vibhu Bakhru observed that in many instances, people become physically intimate with their partner after marriage is promised. But in case of a couple who have been together for a longer period of time, this does not apply and hence it cannot be called the same in such cases.

The court reportedly observed, "In certain cases, a promise of marriage may induce a party to agree to establish sexual relations, even though the party does not desire to consent to the same. Such inducements in a given moment may elicit consent, even though the concerned party may want to say no."

The Delhi HC acquitted the man of rape charges and upheld the decision made by a trial court earlier. The woman had lodged a complaint against the man saying that he had cheated her and indulged in a physical relationship by promising to marry her, a charge the court said was proven not correct by the trial court already. The court also said that the woman agreed to being intimate with the man out of her own free will and was not coerced in any form.

The HC also stated that in cases of false promise to marry, the other party may "vitiate consent and, thus, constitute an offence of rape under Indian Penal Code section 375".

There have been several individual observations by courts earlier similar to this. Earlier in May, a judge of the Orissa High Court has observed that indulgence in sexual intercourse on false promise of marriage does not amount to rape. The case related to the arrest of a student from Koraput district of Odisha under rape charges on a complaint by a 19-year-old tribal woman in November last year. According to the case records, the young man and the woman of the same village were in a physical relationship for many years.

Last year, the Supreme Court had also clarified the legal position in such related subjects, saying that in every case a man cannot be held guilty when he fails to marry a woman despite a promise.

It said that the prosecution must prove that the promise to marry was a promise given with no intention to honour it and that such a promise was the only reason why a woman agreed to a sexual relationship.

"The promise of marriage must have been a false promise, given in bad faith and with no intention of being adhered to at the time it was given. The false promise itself must be of immediate relevance, or bear a direct nexus to the woman’s decision to engage in the sexual act," held the bench.

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