The Delhi High Court, hearing petitions about marital rape, sexual violence in marriage and the need to criminalise it, said on Monday that the subject has “huge ramifications” and was of “tremendous importance”, PTI reported.

A bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar was hearing petitions filed by NGOs RIT Foundation and the All India Democratic Women’s Association.

In August, the Centre had argued against criminalising marital rape and had told the Delhi High Court that doing so may destabilise the institution of marriage. The government had said that if criminalised, the accusation of marital rape would become an easy tool to harass husbands. It also claimed that there can be no “lasting evidence” in the case of sexual acts between a man and his wife.

On Monday, the court asked senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, who is assisting it as an amicus curiae, to express his views on the matter. Ramachandran told the bench he will give his views after hearing the pleas of the Centre and the NGOs.

Advocate Karuna Nandy, appearing for the two NGOs, used the results of studies and research on marital rape to ask the bench to declare forcible sexual intercourse between a married couple as an offence. The bench then said that the issue has huge ramifications and scheduled the next hearing for January 2.

In October, the Supreme Court said sex between a man and his underage wife should be considered rape and criminalised it.