Rape is Rape, Be it by Man or Husband, Karnataka HC Says Marriage Not License to Unleash ‘Brutal Beast’

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In a significant judgment on the contentious issue of marital rape, the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday refused to quash rape charges filed against a man accused of sexually assaulting his wife. The high court said the “brutal act of sexual assault on the wife, against her consent, albeit by the husband, cannot but be termed to be a rape”.

“Such sexual assault by a husband on his wife will have grave consequences on the mental sheet of the wife, it has both psychological and physiological impact on her. Such acts of husbands scar the soul of the wives,” said the single-judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna.

The court made these observations while refusing to interfere with the proceedings initiated against the man, the petitioner, on charges of rape, cruelty as also offences under the POCSO Act for alleged sexual acts against his wife and daughter.

The judge further contended that any man raping a woman is “amenable to punishment under Section 376 of IPC”. “The contention of the learned senior counsel that if the man is the husband, performing the very same acts as that of another man, he is exempted. In my considered view, such an argument cannot be countenanced. A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the ‘husband’ on the woman ‘wife’,” he stated.

In a strong assertion, Nagaprasanna said marriage cannot be used to provide any special male privilege or a license for unleashing a “brutal beast” on the wife, and stressed that for ages, a man in the role of a husband has used the wife as his chattel. The age-old thought and tradition that the husbands are the rulers of their wives, their body, mind and soul should be effaced, the court said.

The high court then concluded that the rape charges filed against the accused husband for an alleged crime of rape amounted to punishment under IPC Section 376, and warranted a trial.

At present, the Indian Penal Code Section 376 provides an exemption to husbands from prosecution for the offence of rape in marriage. The court held that any such exemption for husbands will go against Article 14, which guarantees the right to equality. “If a man, a husband, a man he is, can be exempted from the allegation of commission of ingredients of Section 375 of the IPC (rape), inequality percolates into such provision of law,” the court said.

All human beings under the Constitution are to be treated equally, be it a man, be it a woman and others, it said, adding that any thought of inequality, in any provision of law, would fail the test of Article 14 of the Constitution. “Woman and man being equal under the Constitution cannot be made unequal by Exception-2 to Section 375 of the IPC,” it further said, noting that it is for the lawmakers to ponder over the existence of such inequalities in law.

(With PTI inputs)

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