9 Jan 2023 4:02 PM GMT
Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha issued notice in another petition challenging the validity of the marital rape exception. Earlier, the Supreme Court had listed the matters concerning the validity of the marital rape exception in the second week on January 2023.The Petitioner, a Dalit anti-caste and women’s rights activist, social worker...
Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha issued notice in another petition challenging the validity of the marital rape exception. Earlier, the Supreme Court had listed the matters concerning the validity of the marital rape exception in the second week on January 2023.
The Petitioner, a Dalit anti-caste and women’s rights activist, social worker and General Secretary of Women’s Voice, Karnataka, has challenged the exception on the ground that it violates Articles 14, 15(1), 19(1)(a), and 21 of the Constitution.
Advocate Karuna Nundy, appearing for the petitioner stated–
"There is a judgement in a matter called Saroj Rani which was decided in 1984. In that matter, my lords had said that Article 14 will not apply in marital relationship. Then subsequently, in Puttaswamy, Justice Chelameswar had said citing Saroj Rani that this issue is unclear and left it to be decided on another occassion- whether Article 14, privacy will apply to personal associations or not."
CJI DY Chandrachud stated–
"You are challenging the validity of a central law on the ground that reading the marital rape exception would amount to a breach of 14. That does not raise the issue of whether Article 14 will apply to personal relations or not. The question is that Article 14 does apply to statute. And we have to test the validity of that exception with reference to Article 14."
The bench issued notice in the matter and tagged it with the other petitions concerning the validity of the marital rape exception.
The petition states–
"The doctrine of coverture that underpins the impunity afforded to married men vide the marital rape exception also seeks to maintain caste hierarchies and “pure” kinship structures. Such violent policing of women’s bodies further caste-based assault particularly in the experience of Dalit women who are treated as objects of sexual exploitation by the Savarna men that they marry. The Petitioner also seeks to bring this intersectional experience to this Hon’ble Court vide the present petition."
As per the petition, the exception violates women’s rights to bodily integrity, decisional autonomy, and dignity, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. While stating that these rights are protected through specific laws, including criminal law, the petition argues that by publicly stating that rape within marriage is not “rape”, the exception undermines married women’s consent to sex, and violates their right to decisional autonomy.
Sr. Adv. Indira Jaising, who was also in the court stated–
"The Karnataka matter has to be heard separately. It's not regarding validity of exception but the interpretation of the exception. I don't have any problem but there's also the issue of POCSO in my matter. The validity of restitution of conjugal right is already pending before the court. That issue will be decided separately."
She was referring to the challenge against the Karnataka High Court judgment which held that a husband will be liable for the offence under Section 376 IPC if he rapes his wife. The State of Karnataka had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court supporting the said High Court judgment.
CJI DY Chandrachud said–
"There is a reason we're not doing that. We want your presence when the main matters are heard. We won't tag it but keep it on the same day."
Case Title: Ruth Manorama v. UoI WP(C) No. 1119/2022
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