"No Justification for Sexual Assault in Relationships," Says Bombay High Court

Mainstream
01-Jul-2024
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In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court on Friday observed that a relationship between two adults does not justify sexual assault by one partner on the other. This observation came while the court refused to quash an FIR against a man accused of raping his neighbor under the pretext of marriage.


The court underscored that while a relationship may start consensually, it can evolve, and consent may be withdrawn. "When one partner shows an unwillingness to indulge in a sexual relationship, the character of the relationship ceases to exist as ‘consensual’," the court stated.


According to the case details, the woman, a divorcee living with her four-year-old son in Karad, Satara, became close friends with the accused, who was her neighbor. The accused promised to marry her, but despite her consistent refusals, he allegedly raped her in July 2022 and introduced her to his parents. Subsequently, he began to avoid her. When the woman approached his parents about their marriage, they allegedly abused her, citing caste differences as the reason for not proceeding with the marriage. The accused also reportedly abused and threatened to kill her and her son.


The accused's advocate argued that there was no question of marriage since the woman was already married, and pointed out the delay of 13 months in filing the FIR. The advocate contended that a sexual relationship between willing adult partners is not rape unless consent was obtained through fraudulent acts or misrepresentation. He asserted that there is no wrongdoing if a consensual sexual relationship does not culminate in marriage.


However, the woman’s lawyer highlighted the medico-legal examination report, which indicated evidence of "forcible sexual intercourse." The court acknowledged that the FIR clearly stated that despite an intimate relationship, the man forcibly engaged in sexual intercourse.


A bench of Justices Ajey Gadkari and Neela Gokhale noted that the FIR specified a lack of continuous consent from the woman. "The allegations demonstrate that even though the complainant was desirous of being married to the petitioner, she definitely was not inclined to indulge in a sexual relationship," the court observed. The bench concluded that the accusations in the FIR prima facie constituted the commission of the alleged offense.


This ruling emphasizes the critical understanding that consent is a dynamic component in relationships and can be revoked at any time. The court's decision reinforces the legal stance that any non-consensual sexual act, irrespective of the relationship status between the individuals, constitutes rape.


Author: Anushka Taraniya

News writer