The matter of criminalising of marital rape involves “family issues” and cannot be seen from a “microscopic angle”, the Centre told the Delhi High Court on Monday, according to The Hindu. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, also requested the court to grant “reasonable time” to submit the government’s stand on the matter after consulting the stakeholders.

The Delhi High Court has been hearing on a daily basis, a batch of petitions seeking to remove an exception in the rape law. Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines rape, states that forcible sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape, unless the wife is below 15 years of age.

At Monday’s hearing, Mehta submitted that the Union government would need to take several aspects into account while taking a position on the matter. “It may not be looked at from that microscopic angle…Here, the dignity of a woman is at stake,” he said. “There are family issues.”

The solicitor general said that the Centre could not respond immediately, particularly “when there is no imminent threat that something is going to happen to someone”. The Delhi High Court bench headed by Justice Rajiv Shakdher, however, noted that such instances of abuse may be happening, but may not be reported.

The court will hear the case again on January 25.

At an earlier hearing on January 12, the Delhi government, which is also a party to the petitions, had submitted to the court that the non-criminalisation of marital rape does not compel a woman to have sexual intercourse with her husband.

The Delhi government had said that women in such cases can register cases under Sections 377 (unnatural sexual intercourse), 498A (cruelty by husband or relatives of husband) and 326 (causing grievous hurt by using dangerous weapons) of the Indian Penal Code.

However, on Monday, Senior Advocate Rebecca John said that provisions such as 498A of the Indian Penal Code and the Domestic Violence Act are not enough to deal with a case of a wife alleging rape by her husband, Live Law reported.

John is one of the amici curiae – friends of the court – who have been appointed to assist the court with the matter.

John said that there was no commonality between other legal provisions and Section 375 of the IPC and added that each offence needed to be prosecuted separately.

Arguments at previous hearings

At an earlier hearing on January 13, the Centre had told the High Court that it was considering a “constructive approach” to the matter and has sought suggestions from several stakeholders and authorities on amendments to the law.

Earlier, Justice Shakdher had said that the nature of a married relationship cannot place it on a different pedestal. At another hearing on January 14, the court observed that a sex worker has the right to say no to a client, and questioned how a married woman can be denied that right with respect to her husband.