Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sex On False Promise Of Marriage In India Is Rape

New Delhi : The Supreme Court has held that having sexual intercourse with a girl with her consent obtained through fraud, coercion or on promise of marriage amounts to rape.

A Bench, comprising Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Altamas Kabir, said consent given under fear of injury or a misconception of fact could not be construed to be a valid consent and the sexual act would come within the definition of rape under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code.

It said: "What is voluntary consent and what is not a voluntary consent depends on the facts of each case. One has to see the factors like the age of the girl, her education and her status in the society and likewise the social status of the boy. If the attending circumstances lead to the conclusion that it was not only the accused but also the prosecutrix [girl] who was keen, then in that case, the offence is condoned. But in case a poor girl does not understand what the consequences may be for indulging in such acts and when the accused promised to marry but never intended to from the beginning then the consent of the girl is of no consequence."

Writing the judgment, Justice Mathur said that if sexual intercourse had been committed by the accused when there was no valid consent, the court could presume that the accused had committed a rape. The Bench said that such a presumption had been introduced by the Legislature in the Evidence Act in view of the atrocities being committed against women.

In the instant case the appellant Yedla Srinivasa Rao was convicted and sentenced to undergo seven years imprisonment on a charge of raping a 16-year-old girl. The prosecution case was that he promised to marry her but did not do so. After the girl became pregnant, a case of `rape' was registered against him. The trial court acquitted the accused holding that since the girl consented to the intercourse, it would not amount to rape. On appeal by the State, the Andhra Pradesh High Court reversed the order and awarded him seven-year imprisonment.

Upholding the judgment, the Supreme Court Bench said it was clear from the evidence that the accused had made a false promise to marry the girl. The intention of the accused right from the beginning was not bona fide and the poor girl was misled by the promise of marriage.

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