The Delhi High Court has refused to keep live-in relationships outside the purview of rape under the IPC, saying it would amount to giving them the status of matrimony, which the legislature has chosen “not to do”. The court made the observation while hearing a PIL, which had sought direction to the government to keep the cases of live-in relationships outside the purview of the offence of rape under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
“As far as the relief sought, of keeping the live-in relationships outside the purview of Section 376 (rape) of the IPC is concerned, the same would amount to giving the live-in relationships, the status of matrimony and which the legislature has chosen not to do,” a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said.
“All that we can observe is, that a live-in-relationship constitutes a distinct class from marriage. It is also not as if the defence of consent would not be available in such cases to the accused. We do not find any merit in the petition and dismiss the same,” the judge added.
The PIL also sought direction that the complaint lodged by a live-in partner against the other should be registered under section 420 (cheating), not section 376 (rape), which was turned down by the court, saying it cannot pass such order. The court was hearing a PIL filed by Anil Dutt Sharma who had contended that according to the records it has been seen that in many cases, courts acquit men accused of rape as the women file false case.
“In more than 70 per cent cases, the accused is found not guilty and other associated family members of the acquitted accused face humiliation in society,” the plea had said. It also sought direction to the Centre and Delhi government to secure constitutional rights of the person acquitted from rape charges by the way of compensation and registration of cases against those who misuse the law. It had said that police should not arrest a person only on the basis of an allegation by a woman prior to conducting preliminary enquiry and getting a medical report, but before arrest, sufficient cause should be recorded by a senior officer to avoid false implication.
The bench, however, was of the view that “the petition is misconceived and in ignorance of the laws/procedures already available and in force”. “No general directions as sought can be issued. Moreover, all cases of acquittal cannot be permitted to lead to the conclusion of falsity of the claim of the complainant/ prosecutrix or of faulty investigation.
“The test of proof, in prosecutions, is a tall one and merely because the said test has not been satisfied, resulting in acquittal, cannot be allowed to automatically lead to setting in motion a process of harassment to the complainant/ prosecutrix or the police officials who had investigated the matter,” the court said.
It further said that the “high rate of acquittal in such cases, on which the entire premise of the petition is based, cannot be a reason of the prosecution being malicious or vindictive. “The fact that the prosecution ended in the discharge or acquittal of the accused does not necessarily warrant that the accusation made was baseless to the knowledge of the prosecution,” it added.