In what could have been a landmark case on marital rape in India, a 2 judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices J.S.Khehar and S.A.Bobde awarded a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs to the appellant wife and negated the offence of rape as held by courts below.
The brief facts pertaining to the case can be summarized as that the respondent husband filed a divorce case against the appellant wife and got an exparte decree. The two remained in conjugal relationship even after the decree as it did not come into knowledge of appellant till the respondent remarried. Within six days, of her coming to know, about the ex-parte decree of divorce, the appellant preferred an application, for setting aside the said ex-parte decree. The same was allowed by the Additional District Judge, Chandigarh. In sum and substance, therefore, the matrimonial ties between the appellant and the respondent came to be restored, as if the marital relationship had never ceased. The appellant subsequently filed a complaint u/s 376 IPC against the respondent in which he was discharged by the lower court and confirmed by the High Court and Supreme Court. She therefore filed a second complaint u/s 493,494 IPC to which the Lower Court and High Court refused to adjudge the respondent guilty. The bench did not agree to establishment of a case under sec 376 as the marriage persisted and the nuptial relationship did not end after the restoration decree by the court below. Continuance of sexual relationship by the respondent even after knowing that he had for once ended the marriage through a divorce decree was not considered enough evidence to establish an offence of rape. The bench did not acknowledge to the concept of marital rape which is a strict offence in many countries. Therefore, the case moved to bigamy u/s 494. As it now attracted the principle of Double Jeopardy u/s 300 CrPC, the bench speaking through Justice Khehar held that as no trial took place, sec 300 is not attracted.
“The explanation relied upon, clearly mandates that the dismissal of a complaint, or the discharge of an accused, would not be construed as an acquittal, for the purposes of this Section. In this view of the matter, we are in agreement with the contention advanced at the hands of the learned counsel for the appellant. We are of the considered view, that proceedings in the second complaint would not be barred, because no trial had been conducted against the respondent, in furtherance of the first complaint. Having so concluded, it emerges that it is open to the appellant, to press the accusations levelled by her, through her second complaint, referred to above.”
Going ahead, the bench tested the facts on the proposition of requirements of Sec 493 and 494 and found that an offence is being committed under Sec 494. However keeping in mind that both parties are married to other people and have issues, the bench compounded the offence ordering a compensation of Rs 5 lakhs.
Read the Judgment here.