Rape: When 'Consent' Will Be Vitiated By 'Misconception Of Fact' Arising Out Of Promise To Marry?: SC Explains [Read Judgment]

Rape: When

"The promise of marriage must have been a false promise, given in bad faith and with no intention of being adhered to at the time it was given. The false promise itself must be of immediate relevance, or bear a direct nexus to the woman's decision to engage in the sexual act."

In a judgment delivered on Wednesday, the Supreme Court has summarized the legal position regarding interpretation of the term "consent" of a woman with respect to Section 375 (Rape) in cases where allegation is that the consent was premised on a "misconception of fact" (the promise to marry).

The bench comprising Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee in Pramod Suryabhan Pawar vs. State of Maharashtra observed:

"The "consent" of a woman with respect to Section 375 must involve an active and reasoned deliberation towards the proposed act. To establish whether the "consent" was vitiated by a "misconception of fact" arising out of a promise to marry, two propositions must be established. The promise of marriage must have been a false promise, given in bad faith and with no intention of being adhered to at the time it was given. The false promise itself must be of immediate relevance, or bear a direct nexus to the woman's decision to engage in the sexual act."

Referring to the judgments on this subject, the bench also made following observations:

  • Consent with respect to Section 375 of the IPC involves an active understanding of the circumstances, actions and consequences of the proposed act. An individual who makes a reasoned choice to act after evaluating various alternative actions (or inaction) as well as the various possible consequences flowing from such action or inaction, consents to such action.
  • There is a distinction between a false promise given on the understanding by the maker that it will be broken, and the breach of a promise which is made in good faith but subsequently not fulfilled.
  • Where the promise to marry is false and the intention of the maker at the time of making the promise itself was not to abide by it but to deceive the woman to convince her to engage in sexual relations, there is a "misconception of fact" that vitiates the woman's "consent". On the other hand, a breach of a promise cannot be said to be a false promise. To establish a false promise, the maker of the promise should have had no intention of upholding his word at the time of giving it. The "consent" of a woman under Section 375 is vitiated on the ground of a "misconception of fact" where such misconception was the basis for her choosing to engage in the said act.

In the present case, taking note of the allegations made in the complaint and FIR, the bench quashed the FIR and observed:

The allegations in the FIR do not on their face indicate that the promise by the appellant was false, or that the complainant engaged in sexual relations on the basis of this promise. There is no allegation in the FIR that when the appellant promised to marry the complainant, it was done in bad faith or with the intention to deceive her. The appellant's failure in 2016 to fulfil his promise made in 2008 cannot be construed to mean the promise itself was false. The allegations in the FIR indicate that the complainant was aware that there existed obstacles to marrying the appellant since 2008, and that she and the appellant continued to engage in sexual relations long after their getting married had become a disputed matter. Even thereafter, the complainant travelled to visit and reside with the appellant at his postings and allowed him to spend his weekends at her residence. The allegations in the FIR belie the case that she was deceived by the appellant's promise of marriage. Therefore, even if the facts set out in the complainant's statements are accepted in totality, no offence under Section 375 of the IPC has occurred.

With respect to the offences under the SC/ST Act, the WhatsApp messages were alleged to have been sent by the accused to the complainant on 27 and 28 August 2015 and 22 October 2015, the bench observed that the messages were not in public view, no assault occurred, nor was the appellant in such a position so as to dominate the will of the complainant. Therefore, even if the allegations set out by the complainant with respect to the WhatsApp messages and words uttered are accepted on their face, no offence is made out under SC/ST Act (as it then stood), it added.

Click here to Read/Download Judgment