New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the Central Government to respond to a petition seeking the criminalization of marital rape. The petition challenges an exemption granted in penal law which does not consider sexual intercourse of a man with his minor wife as rape.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath agreed to examine the issue on a review petition filed by an NGO whose plea had been dismissed last year on the ground that Supreme Court was then hearing a similar legal challenge.
But when Centre clarified on Monday that fresh grounds have been raised in the case before the court, the bench agreed to hear the plea and issued notice to the Centre asking it to file its reply to the review plea before March 23.
In its review plea, NGO RiT Foundation told the court that the exception in section 375 was brought about by way of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013 enacted after the Nirbahya gangrape. It argues that exception to Section 375 of the IPC granting immunity to a husband who rapes his wife (who is above 15 years of age though a minor) is unconstitutional.
It said that the exception was “unconstitutional and violates Right to Equality guaranteed to married women under Article 14 of the Constitution as it decriminalizes rape when the perpetrator is the lawfully wedded husband of the victim.”
The petition further stated that marital rape has been criminalised in almost all major common law jurisdictions throughout the world, including in the US, the UK, South Africa and Canada. “The criminalisation of marital rape was also recommended by Justice J S Verma Committee in 2013. However, government has desisted from paying any attention,” it added.