The Bharatiya Janata-Party Karnataka government has, in an affidavit before the Supreme Court, supported the prosecution of a man accused of raping his wife, Bar and Bench reported on Thursday.

The Karnataka government’s differs from the view taken on multiple occasions by the BJP-led Union government, which has opposed the criminalisation of marital rape, saying there is a need for wider consultations on the subject.

The state government filed the affidavit in response to a notice by the Supreme Court on an appeal filed by the man against a judgement of the Karnataka High Court.

On March 23, the High Court had refused to set aside rape charges under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code against the man, holding that marriage does not confer any special male privilege “for unleashing of a brutal beast”, according to the Hindustan Times.

“If it is punishable to a man, it should be punishable to a man albeit, the man being a husband,” the High Court had said. “... No exemption in law can be so absolute that it becomes a license for commission of crime against society.”

The husband had argued that he could not be prosecuted for rape on account of Exception 2 to the rape law, which states that forcible sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape unless the wife is below 15 years of age.

In its affidavit, the Karnataka government told the Supreme Court that the High Court was correct in dismissing the man’s writ petition.

“From the bare reading of amended provision of Section 375, the complainant clearly invokes the amended provision. Hence the said point is held in favour of the prosecution and against the petitioner,” the state government said.

Centre’s stand on marital rape

In an affidavit filed on January 12 before the Delhi High Court, the Centre had said that criminalisation of marital rape “could open floodgates of false cases being made with ulterior motives”.

In February, the Centre had urged the court to suspend the proceedings in the case, saying that it needed to hold consultations with states and other stakeholders. The court had given the government time till February 21 to make its stand.

However, on the next date of hearing, the Union government stuck to the same position, after which the High Court refused to defer the proceedings.

On May 11, Justices C Hari Shankar and Rajiv Shakdher of the High Court passed a split verdict on the matter. The case is now before the Supreme Court.

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.

In February this year, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani told the Rajya Sabha that condemning each marriage as violent and every man as a rapist was not advisable.