SC rules sex with mi­nor wife as mar­i­tal rape

Financial Chronicle - - FUNDAMENTALS, POLITICS -

THE Supreme Court, in a land­mark judge­ment, has crim­i­nalised sex with a mi­nor wife aged be­tween 15 and 18 years, say­ing the ex­cep­tion in the rape law was ar­bi­trary and was vi­ola­tive of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

Sec­tion 375 of the IPC, which de­fines the of­fence of rape, has an ex­cep­tion clause that says in­ter­course or sex­ual act by a man with his wife, not be­low 15 years, is not rape. How­ever, the age of con­sent is 18 years.

The apex court said the ex­cep­tion in the rape law was con­trary to the phi­los­o­phy of other statutes and vi­o­lates the bod­ily in­tegrity of a girl child. A bench com­pris­ing Jus­tice Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta also ex­pressed con­cern over the preva­lent prac­tice of child mar­riage in the coun­try and said so­cial jus­tice laws were not im­ple­mented with the spirit with which they have been en­acted by Par­lia­ment. The bench clar­i­fied that it has not dealt with the is­sue of mar­i­tal rape as it was not raised be­fore it by re­spec­tive par­ties.

Jus­tice Gupta, who wrote a sep­a­rate but con­cur­rent ver­dict, said the age of mar­riage was 18 in all laws and the ex­cep­tion given in the rape law un­der the IPC is “capri­cious, ar­bi­trary and vi­o­lates the rights of a girl child”. The apex court said the ex­cep­tion is vi­ola­tive of Ar­ti­cle 14, 15 and 21 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. It asked the Cen­tre and the states to take proac­tive steps to pro­hibit child mar­riage across the coun­try. It voiced con­cern over thou­sands of mi­nor girls be­ing mar­ried in mass wed­ding cer­e­monies on the oc­ca­sion of Ak­shaya Tri­tiya.

The court had ear­lier re­served the ver­dict while ques­tion­ing the Cen­tre how the Par­lia­ment could cre­ate an ex­cep­tion in law declar­ing that in­ter­course or a sex­ual act by a man with his wife, aged be­tween 15 and less than 18 years, is not rape when the age of con­sent is 18. The SC had also ob­served that child mar­riage can­not go on like this just be­cause this il­le­gal prac­tice was as­sumed to be le­gal and has been go­ing on for ages.

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