Every breach of promise to marry doesn’t mean rape: SC
A charge of rape is not applicable in every case where a man does not marry his girlfriend after a promise, the Supreme Court has held. According to the top court, it will not amount to an offence of rape if the promise to marry was not false when it was given but the man, for some real reasons, could not get married to his girlfriend in future.
An SC bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and MR Shah elucidated the legal position while exonerating a 30-year-old man of the rape charge under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code.
Citing a 2019 judgment of the top court, the bench said that to establish that the consent of a woman for a physical relationship was obtained by fraud and misconception of fact through a false promise of marriage, it was necessary to show that the man gave the promise in bad faith and never had any intention of marrying his girlfriend.
“Every breach of promise cannot be said to be a false promise,” underscored the bench.
A first information repot (FIR) was registered against the man by his girlfriend in March 2018 at Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, alleging that he had refused to marry her after they had a relationship of a year and a half. The woman accused him of deceiving her and establishing a sexual relationship with her on a false promise of marriage.
A charge sheet against the man was also filed in April 2018, prompting him to approach the Allahabad high court for getting the FIR quashed. He cited the woman’s statement to the magistrate that she was in the relationship of her free will and that there was no question of any deception or misconception about any fact. He added that his promise to marry her was genuine but he could not do so in view of change in circumstances, in particular due to opposition from his parents.
But the high court declined to nix the FIR in September 2019, saying the offence was cognisable in nature and since it involved disputed questions of facts, the veracity of allegations or otherwise could be established only after a trial.
Filing the appeal against the high court order, the man submitted in the Supreme Court that the woman’s own statement to the magistrate will demonstrate that he wanted to marry her and this is why he had made her meet his parents.
Advocate Amit Pawan, representing the man, also read out from her statement wherein she stated that the man had called her to his hometown Jhansi in January 2018, saying he wanted to have a court marriage with her. However, the situation at his home changed for the worse and it was not possible for him to marry her although there was absolutely no intent on his part not to marry her when they started the relationship, Pawan added.
The petition to quash the charges was opposed by advocate Vishnu Shakar Jain, who appeared for the state of UP, and the counsel for the woman, contending that the offence of rape was made out since marriage was apparently a pretext only to goad her into a sexual relationship.
The bench, however, found substance in the man’s arguments that the relationship was a consensual one and they were together for over a year of their own free will. The FIR, noted the bench, was filed only after the man expressed his disinclination to marry at a later stage and there was nothing to show that he had no intention of upholding his promise from the very beginning of the relationship.
“There is no allegation to the effect that the promise to marry given to the second respondent was false at the inception. On the contrary, it would appear from the contents of the FIR that there was a subsequent refusal on the part of the appellant to marry the second respondent which gave rise to the registration of the FIR,” said the bench, quashing the FIR and the charge sheet against the man.