The Kerala High Court on Thursday orally observed that rape charges will not be attracted against a man merely because the relationship between him and a woman turned sour over time while reserving its verdict in the bail application moved by a Central Government Counsel in a sexual assault case.
Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas remarked that the relationships have evolved over time and that young adults these days have a different outlook on romantic relationships but that the fact that the relationship did not work out will not attract the offence of rape.
"A relationship turning sour at a later point of time will not amount to rape. In the present social context, we have live-in relationships and open marriages...Practically speaking, the age of marriage has also changed now. Girls aged 28 and 29 years are not ready to get married these days. They are enjoying their independence. New generation children don't always want to marry, they don't want to have children. But the difficulty that arises is that allegations of rape surface after these relationships turn sour."
The Court added that this change in relationships has led to an increasing number of rape allegations being raised after these couples break up and marry others. However, this does not always imply that one of the partners was forced into having sexual relationship on a false promise to marry.
"Now we find young men and women living together, enjoying relationships and like in foreign countries. It is only after they understand their physical and mental compatibility that they decide to get married. At a later stage, if they realise that they are incompatible, they both may end the relationship. There might be situations where one of them prefers to continue in the relationship but the other does not. But all of these are not situations which will amount to a case of rape. It may be a breach of promise, but breach of promise is not rape."
The Judge highlighted that in such cases, the crucial aspect to be considered is whether consent for sexual intercourse was obtained on the promise of marriage.
The Court was adjudicating upon a bail application moved by a Central Government Counsel of the State, Advocate Navneeth N Nath who was arrested last month after a sexual abuse complaint was lodged against him by a colleague. The decision in this case will be pronounced tomorrow.
The allegation was that the de facto complainant had been in a relationship with the CGC for 4 years but he later decided to marry another woman. When she came to about this after meeting his fiance at a hotel, she allegedly tried to commit suicide.
After the arrest, the CGC moved the High Court with a bail application.
Senior Advocate Ramesh Chander appearing for the petitioner argued that he intended to marry the de facto complainant and that the sexual relationship between them was completely consensual. He said he met the woman (who is now his fiance) only after their parents objected to the marriage between him and the de facto complainant. It was added the couple was conscious from the outset that their relationship may not be accepted since they belonged to different faiths but the complainant chose to take her chances and continued the relationship.
On the other hand, Advocate John S Ralph appeared for the de-facto complainant and submitted that their sexual relationship was based on an absolute promise to marry which has now proved to be false. The Public Prosecutor also opposed the application citing that whatever consent was obtained was based on a misconception of facts and that the offence of rape will be attracted in this case.
Since the case arose between a couple who had been in a relationship for over 4 years, the Court said that the complainant's case may be affected by the Supreme Court decision in Pramod Suryabhan Pawar v State Of Maharashtra where it was held that a long period of a relationship is indicative of an absence obtaining consent by promising to marry.
The Court also noted that in the FIS, there was no indication that the woman indulged in sex only with the belief that he was going to marry her.
Case Title: Navaneeth N Nath v State of Kerala