The Centre on Monday told the Delhi High Court that the issue of criminalisation of marital rape involves “family issues” and the dignity of a woman and cannot be looked at from a “microscopic angle”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, urged the High Court to allow a “reasonable time” to place the position of the government after consultation with the stakeholders.
“Your lordships are not just deciding the statutory or constitutional validity of a provision. It may not be looked at from that microscopic angle…Here, the dignity of a woman is at stake. There are family issues. There would be several considerations which would weigh with the government to take a position to assist your lordship,” the Solicitor General said.
“It would not be possible for the Centre to respond immediately, particularly when there is no imminent threat that something is going to happen to someone. I would reiterate my request that we would need a reasonable time.”
A bench of Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice C Hari Shankar, hearing a batch of petitions challenging the provision in law that makes an exception for marital rape, said this issue cannot be kept hanging.“For some people and here, there is a live case [of one of the petitioners], every day matters for a simple reason that some say this abuse is happening, maybe not reported but this is happening. Now it can’t be our answer that listens it has been there for 100 years now what is the urgency. Now that we’ve started we’d like to conclude,” the court said.
In India, marital rape is not defined in any statute or law. The NGOs — RIT Foundation, All India Democratic Women’s Association — a man and a woman are seeking striking down of the exception granted to husbands under the Indian rape law.The exception says sexual intercourse by a man with his wife aged 15 years or above is not rape even if it is without her consent. In October 2017, the Supreme Court increased it to 18 years.
During the hearing on Monday, senior advocate Rebecca John, who is assisting the High Court as an amicus curiae in the case, said she was getting a lot of hate mails because of her view on the issue.“To all those who asked me to recuse because I’ve an opinion...the challenge is only to be tested on anvil of constitutionality,” Ms. John said.
To this, the bench said, “If having a view was a ground for recusal then everyone should recuse from every case. Every intelligent person has a view on everything.”
The High Court will continue hearing the case on January 25.