Marital Rape Criminalization Plea Final Hearing to Commence from March 21

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On January 16, 2023, the Supreme Court sought a response from the Centre on a batch of petitions seeking criminalization of marital rape. The batch of petitions was listed before the Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice PS Narasimha. The three-judge bench asked the Central Government to file the response on pleas related to marital rape by February 15, 2023, and the final hearing for the same would be commenced from March 21, 2023.   

One of the petitions was related to the split verdict of the Delhi High Court on marital rape which was filed by Khushboo Saifi. A division bench of Delhi High Court comprising Justices Rajeev Shakdhar and C Hari Shankar delivered a split verdict on the matter in May last year. One of the judges said the “right to withdraw consent at any given point in time forms the core of the woman’s right to life and liberty” whereas the other said “legitimate expectation of sex” is an “inexorable” aspect of marriage. Another plea was filed by a man against the verdict of Karnataka High Court, where a single judge bench (Justice M Nagaprasanna) said “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’.” While addressing the plea against the Karnataka HC judgment, Advocate (appearing for the wife) sought an application for suppression of identity to which the bench granted permission. 

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Various other pleas were also filed related to the marital rape exception and were presented before the Supreme Court whereas some of them challenged the constitutional validity under Section 375 of the IPC. This section lists seven notions of consent which when vitiated results in an offense of rape by a man. It also contains an exemption that stated that a sexual act or intercourse by a man with his wife where the wife is not a minor, is not rape.  After hearing these pleas, the Chief Justice of India said, “Union of India shall file counter affidavits by 15th February 2023. The batch will be heard on 21st March 2023. Ms. Pooja Dhar and Ms. Jaikriti Jadeja have been appointed as nodal counsels. They shall prepare a common compilation. Written submissions shall be filed by 3rd March 2023.” 

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