HC refuses to drop rape case against married man who posed as bachelor to marry actor

Updated on Jul 27, 2022 06:41 PM IST

The Bombay high court on Tuesday refused to exonerate a man who is being prosecuted for raping a Marathi actor after allegedly marrying her by posing as a bachelor when his first marriage was in fact in subsistence

The Bombay high court HT Archives
The Bombay high court HT Archives

The Bombay high court on Tuesday refused to exonerate a man who is being prosecuted for raping a Marathi actor after allegedly marrying her by posing as a bachelor when his first marriage was in fact in subsistence.

According to police, a common friend had introduced the actor, a divorcee, to Siddharth Banthia in 2008. In June 2010, he proposed to her by claiming to be a bachelor, and a month later, the marriage was solemnised at Versova.

Two months after the marriage, a woman called the actor and informed her that she was Banthia’s wife and they had two children born out of wedlock. When the actor confronted him about the woman, Banthia told her that his previous marriage was dissolved and even assured to show her the divorce papers.

When their first wedding anniversary celebrations at an Andheri hotel became public, Banthia’s first wife walked into their residence where the accused accepted that the divorce papers that he had shown the actor were fake. Thereafter, the actor met his parents and realised that he had cheated on her.

In 2013, she filed a complaint at Dattawadi police station in Pune and an FIR was registered against Banthia on rape and other charges. The Pune sessions court on September 3, 2021, rejected his plea for discharge from the rape case. Banthia then moved the HC.

Banthia in his discharge plea before the HC disputed the solemnisation of marriage with the actor and contended that there was no question of obtaining her consent for physical relationship by misrepresentation. He also claimed that the marriage and the anniversary celebrations were merely props as the actor had induced the petitioner to perform the role of “husband” for a programme to be aired, and Banthia performed the role as he was “fond of film and television industry”.

Counsel for the actor, advocate Aishwarya Kantawala, however, pointed out that the acts of the accused fitted in the fourth clause of section 375 of the Indian Penal Code which defines the term rape. Kantawala said that the accused induced the actor to perform marriage, despite being already married and cohabited with her by pretending to be her lawful husband.

A single-judge bench of justice N J Jamadar accepted her contention. The judge said the actor had categorically stated that she was made to solemnise the marriage and cohabit with him who claimed to be unmarried.

“Since the petitioner [Banthia] allegedly solemnised the marriage with the prosecutrix [actor], during the lifetime of his wife, the marriage was, thus, void,” justice Jamadar said, while dismissing his plea for discharge.

The judge said the accused knew he was not her husband and yet had physical relations with her by pretending to be her lawfully married husband and therefore there was substance in the actor’s submission that she would not have given consent but for the belief induced by him that he was unmarried.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Special Correspondent. I have spent over a decade covering courts in Mumbai, primarily the Bombay High Court, and including several important trials like trial of 120 accused in March 1993 Mumbai bombings, 26/11 case - trial of Ajmal Kasab.

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