The Delhi high court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) asking for criminalisation of marital rape, and challenging the provisions of Indian Penal Code whereby a husband may have sex with his under-aged wife without attracting anti-rape prosecution.
"Since the Supreme Court is already seized with the issue, we are not inclined to entertain this writ petition. The same is disposed of," a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and justice Jayant Nath said.
The court was hearing a plea filed by NGO Rit Foundation that contended the exception in section 375 was brought by way of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, which was enacted after the horrific gangrape case of December 16, 2012.
It had claimed that the exception to Section 375 of the IPC was to the extent that it grants immunity to a husband by raping his wife, who is above age of 15 years, was unconstitutional. It added that the law as it stands was in violation of the Right to Equality guaranteed to married women under Article 14 of the Constitution as it decriminalises rape when the perpetrator is the lawfully wedded husband of the victim.
Appearing on behalf of the Centre, additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain told court that a similar plea was pending for consideration before the Supreme Court.
The subject of marital rape has been contentious in India, and came back into focus after the government rejected JS Verma Committee’s suggestion to criminalise the same. The Verma Committee was formed to look into crimes against women's laws after the December 16, 2012 gangrape.
Marital rape has been criminalised in almost all major common law jurisdictions throughout the world, including in the US, the UK, South Africa and Canada, the petition pointed out.