‘Rape is rape’: Karnataka high court declines to drop marital rape case against man

Published on Mar 23, 2022 10:21 PM IST

The Karnataka high court ruled that the rape charges framed against the husband “in the peculiar facts of this case do not warrant any interference. It is a matter of trial”

The Karnataka high court said the exclusion of marital rape from the IPC provision for rape cannot be absolute, and that such exception is “regressive”. (PTI)
The Karnataka high court said the exclusion of marital rape from the IPC provision for rape cannot be absolute, and that such exception is “regressive”. (PTI)
ByArun Dev

BENGALURU: The Karnataka high court on Wednesday refused to drop rape charges framed by a trial court against a man for his wife’s sexual assault, ruling that the marriage doesn’t confer any special male privilege or a license for unleashing a “brutal beast” on the wife.

“Institution of marriage does not confer, cannot confer and in my considered view, should not be construed to confer, any special male privilege or a license for unleashing of a brutal beast. If it is punishable to a man, it should be punishable to a man albeit, the man being a husband,” justice M Nagaprasanna said in his verdict, declining to accept the husband’s plea that he cannot be tried for marital rape under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

“In my considered view, such an argument cannot be countenanced. A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the “husband” on the woman “wife”,” the bench pointed out.

In March 2017, the woman accused her husband of sodomy, aggravated sexual harassment assault of her 9-year-old daughter, domestic violence, causing hurt. On completing their investigation, the police added section 376 of IPC which relates to punishment for rape, and sections 5 (m) and (l) and section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which relate to repeated penetrative sexual assault.

The trial court eventually framed charges for rape, cruelty by husband and criminal intimidation, prompting the man to appeal against the subordinate court’s decision.

Justice Nagaprasanna refused the man’s plea to drop the rape charges on the ground that section 375 does not criminalise sex between a man and his wife, even if it is forced.

The Karnataka government’s law officer told the court during arguments that “since the husband is exempted from the allegation of Section 375 of the IPC, even if the facts warrant, it is for this court to consider the same in the light of the exception. But she (law officer) would submit that it is a matter for trial.”

The high court noted that a perusal of the complaint and written communications “would send a chilling effect on any human being reading the contents of it. The wife-the complainant, cries foul in no unmistakable terms that she is being brutally, sexually harassed keeping her as a sex slave for ages”.

“The exemption of the husband on committal of such assault/rape, in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case, cannot be absolute, as no exemption in law can be so absolute that it becomes a license for the commission of crime against society,” the court said.

In his judgement, Justice Nagaprasanna questioned the exemption of marital rape from section 375 of IPC, observing that it was “regressive” and runs counter to the principle of equality enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution.

It, however, underlined that the court was not getting into whether marital rape should be recognized as an offence or the exception be taken away by the legislature. “Women and men being equal under the Constitution cannot be made unequal by Exception-2 to Section 375 of the IPC. It is for the lawmakers to ponder over the existence of such inequalities in law,” the order said.

“The charge sheet filed by the police after investigation also depicts graphic details of the demonic lust of accused No 1, who even according to the investigation has had unnatural sex; every time has sexual intercourse torturing or abusing the wife, or threatening to beat the daughter or beating the daughter, all for the satisfaction of the gory carnal lust,” the court observed.

“The contents of the complaint are an outburst of tolerance of the wife of the brutal acts of the petitioner. It is akin to eruption of a dormant volcano. In the teeth of the facts, as narrated in the complaint, in my considered view, no fault can be found with the learned Sessions Judge taking cognizance of the offences punishable under Section 376 of IPC and framing a charge to that effect,” the court said.

The bench pointed out that a sexual assault has grave consequences on the mental health of a wife. It added that such acts have both psychological and physiological impacts on the woman, and “scar the soul of the wives.”

“The age-old thought and tradition that the husbands are the rulers of their wives, their body, mind and soul should be effaced. It is only on this archaic, regressive and preconceived notion, that cases of this kind are mushrooming in the nation…The Constitution, a fountainhead of all statutes, depicts equality. The (Indian Penal) Code practises discrimination,” the bench added.

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