The Delhi High Court recently reduced the sentence of life imprisonment awarded to a man convicted of concealing the fact of his first marriage, and thereby maintaining sexual relations with his "second wife" on that pretext.
The Bench comprising Justice S.P. Garg and Justice C. Hari Shankar opined that the lower court had been "needlessly harsh" in awarding the sentence and that the order on sentence appeared to be "completely fanciful and platitudinous and totally unwarranted". It then ruled that a punishment of 7 years rigorous imprisonment would be more than sufficient to deter the convict from indulging in such "sexual adventurism" in the future.
The Court was hearing an Appeal filed by one Mahendra, who had been convicted of offences punishable under Sections 375 (rape), 493 (Cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully inducing a belief of lawful marriage), and 495 (concealment of former marriage from person with whom subsequent marriage is contracted) of the Indian Penal Code. The impugned order had sentenced him to life imprisonment, along with a cumulative fine of Rs. 6 lakh.
The complaint against him had been filed by Mahendra's second wife, who had alleged that he had married and maintained sexual relationship with her, without disclosing the fact of his first marriage. She had therefore alleged that Mahendra had outraged her modesty. She had further alleged that Mahendra, along with his first wife, Vijeta had conspired to dupe her, and later stole her father's car. The lower Court, however, acquitted Vijeta, while convicting Mahendra.
The High Court now began by considering the applicability of clause ―Fourthly of Section 375 (2) of the IPC, which states,
"375. Rape. – A man is said to commit ―rape‖ who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:–
(Fourthly) —With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married."
It noted that the clause has two essential ingredients, namely: (i) that the prosecutrix should not be lawfully married to the accused and (ii) that the prosecutrix should, however, believe herself to be lawfully married to the accused, resulting in her giving consent for sexual intercourse.
In order to counter the two ingredients, Mahendra had submitted that he was not married to Vijeta, and that they were only in a live-in relationship. The Court, however, took note of a registered sale deed which recognized Vijeta as Mahendra's wife and rejected the contention. With this finding, the Court ruled that the first ingredient of the clause stood satisfied as Mahendra's marriage with the complainant was void.
With regard to the second ingredient, the Court noted that sexual relations between the complainant and accused had only commenced subsequent to their marriage. It, therefore, observed, "It is apparent, therefore, that the motivation, for physical relationship with Mahendra, insofar as 'M' was concerned, was the fact that she was married to him. The second ingredient of clause ―Fourthly‖, in Section 375 of the IPC also, thereby, stands satisfied."
With regard to the other charges, the Court opined that there was no positive deceit or concealment by Mahendra of the fact of his marriage, in the absence of any proof to establish the same. The Court therefore set aside Mahendra's conviction under 493 and 495 of the IPC, but upheld the rape charges against him. His sentence was, however, reduced to 7 years rigorous imprisonment, along with fine of Rs. 10,000.