Sour relationship no ground for rape charge

Sour relationship no ground for rape charge

As social mores change, so does the attitude towards sex and marriage, amidst contradictions and variations based on faith, regional and economic lines.

In our society, contradictions are rushing at each other all the time. Where ‘honour’ killings occur, love marriages, inter-caste and inter-faith marriages also take place. Where brides are burnt for failure to bring dowry, women also walk out to protest suppression and indignity. Courts have ruled for and against same sex marriages.

As social mores change, so does the attitude towards sex and marriage, amidst contradictions and variations based on faith, regional and economic lines. Indeed, there is no real ‘Indian’ yardstick. Stereotypes, based on long-held perceptions and studies boosted by surveys and statistics, are presumed as ‘Indian.’

Since sex and marriage are basic to any society, can benchmarks be established? Judiciary does that when confronted with complex situations. A Bombay High Court judgment, just out, has sought to do that, opening floodgates of debate. It pertains to a man and woman, both educated, both lawyers -- easy to assume that they are adults, educated and socially and legally aware. In a live-in relationship, they had pre-marital sex for long. The lady says she was promised marriage. When refused, she attempted suicide. The man complained to police of being threatened, and yet the live-in and sex continued. The man says it was a consensual relationship. As love flew out of the window, both went to court, tired of each other.

Rahul Patil and Seema Deshmukh are names changed to protect their identities. Seema has sued Rahul for cheating and rape. She was pregnant with Rahul’s child and had a baby. Despite promising her marriage, Rahul married another woman.

They belong to different faiths. Their location, Nashik in Maharashtra, means that this does not reflect, as perceptions go, a metropolitan trend. So, faith, social, economic and urban-rural parameters are fairly clear.

The verdict by the single judge bench of Her Ladyship Mridula Bhatkar permits a safe assumption that while ruling against Seema, she would not be unfair to her. What the judge has to say is important.

She has observed that pre-marital sex and live-in relationships are a social reality. Promise and resolve of marriage can be there. But mutual love can diminish or vanish, over time, since the couple is living in a society, not in isolation.

There can be myriad factors for a relationship to go sour – very personal and intimate but ones that require to be considered while giving a legal verdict. Among them is the charge of rape leveled against Rahul by Seema. Justice Bhatkar has said a relationship gone sour is no ground for the rape charge to be sustained as sex was between two consenting adults living together. It did not constitute Rape under section 376, IPC, as oppression, inducement or concealment of first marriage were absent.

Her observations are noteworthy: "Though unlike western countries, we have social taboo and are hesitant to accept free sexual relationship between unmarried couples or youngsters as their basic biological need; the court cannot be oblivious to a fact of changing behavioural norms and patterns between man and woman relationship in society."

By: Mahendra Ved

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