NEW DELHI: Yesterday during a judgment Justice Rajiv Shakdher of the Delhi High Court said that it is binding on courts to take decisions concerning sensitive social issues while striking down the marital rape exception in a split verdict.
In his Judgement, it is said – “As that is the mandate of the Constitution and, therefore, duty and obligation which must be discharged if one is to remain true to the oath taken under the Constitution. Thus, the mea culpa on behalf of the institution is that one way or the other the issue ought to have been laid to rest much earlier,”
“Thus, ‘shunning responsibility’ to decide what falls within the ken of the court and leaving it to the Executive and/or the Legislature, in my view, would constitute abandonment of duty and the role which the Constitution has defined for the courts,” said Justice Shakdher.
The judge said the attempt to keep away the law even when a woman is subjected to forced sex by her husband, “by demarcating private and public space”, is to “deny her the agency and autonomy that the Constitution confers on her”. One cannot close one’s eyes to rape merely because it is difficult to prove, the judge said on the question of evidence in marital rape.
Sexual assault by the husband needs to be called out as rape, “as that is one of the ways in which the society expresses its disapproval concerning the conduct of the offender”, he said.
“It impairs and nullifies their sexual agency with regard to coitus and their right to procreate or abstain from procreation. More fundamentally, their power to negotiate contraception, to protect themselves against sexually transmissible disease and to seek an environment of safety, away from the clutches of her abuses, is completely eroded,”
Justice Shakdher said: “The right to withdraw consent at any given point in time forms the core of the woman’s right to life and liberty, which encompasses her right to protect her physical and mental being. Non-consensual sex destroys this core by violating what is dear to her, which is her dignity, bodily integrity, autonomy and agency, and the choice to procreate or even not to procreate.”
Later, he also talked about Section 376B IPC and Section 198B of CrPC in which he said –
“insofar as they concern a husband/separated husband having sexual communion/intercourse with his wife (who is not under 18 years), albeit, without her consent”.
During an argument when it is said that the exception would lead to the registration of false cases, Justice Shakdher said that notion is not backed by any empirical data. He also said that courts are fully furnished to deal with false cases.
“This submission, if I may say so, is suggestive of the fact that married women in India are manipulative or capable of being manipulated more than their counterparts in other jurisdictions,” the judge said.
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(MARCH – APRIL 2022)