The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to file its response on a batch of petitions pertaining to criminalisation of marital rape by February 25. A bench comprising Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices P.S. Narasimha and J.B. Pardiwala will start hearing the case on March 21.
The petitions were filed challenging the constitutional validity of Exception 2 to Section 375, which says sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his wife, the wife not being under 18 years of age, is not rape even if the woman's consent is not obtained.
A batch of petitions has been filed in the Supreme Court after the Delhi High Court pronounced a split verdict on the issue in May 2022. While Justice Rajiv Shakdher held that the immunity to husband from the offence of marital rape was unconstitutional, Justice C. Hari Shankar was of the view that it did not violate the Constitution since the exception was based on an intelligible differentia.
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The top court had earlier said the hearing will begin in the second week of January.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, meanwhile, informed the court that the issues pertaining to marital rape exception would have social ramifications and few months ago they had asked states to share their inputs in the matter. SG Mehta said apart from legal the issue has social ramifications too.
In its affidavits filed in the Delhi High Court, too, the Centre had claimed that the criminalisation of marital rape could have a “destabilising effect on the institution of marriage” and become an “easy tool for harassing husbands”. The government had also quoted the Law Commission's 172nd report in 2000, which had not favoured the demand for striking down the exception clause.
The petitioners, however, claim that the exception given in Section 375 is discriminatory against married women who are sexually assaulted by their husbands.