The Delhi High Court on Monday reserved its verdict on the petitions seeking to criminalise marital rape, reported Live Law.
A bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and C Hari Shankar is hearing a batch of petitions to remove Exception 2 in the rape law under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code. The exception states that forcible sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape, unless the wife is below 15 years of age.
On February 7, the High Court had given the Centre two weeks’ time to clarify its stand on the matter after the government had said it wanted to consult the stake holders.
At Monday’s hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the High Court that the Centre was waiting for the response from the state governments and other stakeholders on the case. Mehta said that he had written to the chief secretaries of the state governments and the National Commission for Women on the matter in January.
“Generally, when a legislative enactment is challenged, we take a stand,” Mehta said, according to Bar and Bench. “But those are commercial or taxation laws. There are very few cases when such wide consequences are found. It is therefore our stand that we will be able to put our stand only after consultation.”
He argued that the hearing in the case should be deferred till the Centre receives the replies.
However, the court, in its order said that it would not be possible to defer the hearing as there was no fixed date when the consultation process will get over. The judges reserved their verdict and listed the matter for next hearing on March 2.
“In the meanwhile, counsel for the parties will file written submissions and convenience complication,” the order said.
The Centre had sought to defer the hearing through an affidavit filed on February 3. In its affidavit, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had said that the questions involved in the case have “far-reaching socio-legal implications”.
The ministry said that the matter needed a comprehensive approach rather than just a strictly legal view. It said that there would be no prejudice if the matter is deferred as the case has been pending since 2015.
This reflected a change in the Centre’s stance from an earlier affidavit filed in the case.
In an affidavit filed in 2017, the government had said that criminalising marital rape would destabilise the institution of marriage. It had also said that the criminalisation would become an “easy tool” for harassing husbands.