The Supreme Court on Monday acquitted a man in a 20-year-old rape case after observing that he and the woman were in love, their relationship was consensual and the case was filed as an “afterthought” because the man eventually decided to marry someone else, NDTV reported.

The court said that “no woman, after being sexually assaulted at knife-point, would write love letters to the accused and share a live-in relationship with him for four years”.

A bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee made the observations while setting aside the conviction of the man by a trial court and the Jharkhand High Court in 1999. The alleged assault took place in 1995, but the woman reportedly said she stayed quiet for four years because the accused had promised to marry her.

However, the court said the delay of four years in lodging the first information report – “at an opportune time of seven days” – before the man’s marriage with another woman, raises serious doubts about the “truth and veracity” of the allegations, according to Live Law. The top court cited letters exchanged between the accused and the woman and said it was apparent that their “love for each other grew and matured” over a sufficient period of time.

“They were both smitten by each other and passions of youth ruled over their minds and emotions,” the bench observed. “The physical relations that followed was not isolated or sporadic in nature, but regular over the years. The prosecutrix had even gone and resided in the house of the appellant.”

The Supreme Court said these letters point towards how the accused was serious about his relationship with the woman and his intention to marry her. “But unfortunately for societal reasons, the marriage could not materialise as they belonged to different communities,” the court said. It added that the man belonged to a Scheduled Tribe and the woman was from a Christian community.

Therefore, the court said it was not possible to hold that the man never intended to marry her and quoted the woman’s letters in which she had acknowledged that the man’s family always treated her well, and that their families also got them engaged.

“The prosecutrix [the woman] was herself aware of the obstacles in their relationship because of different religious beliefs. An engagement ceremony was also held in the solemn belief that the societal obstacles would be overcome, but unfortunately differences also arose whether the marriage was to solemnised in the Church or in a Temple and ultimately failed. It is not possible to hold on the evidence available that the appellant right from the inception did not intend to marry the prosecutrix ever and had fraudulently misrepresented only in order to establish physical relation with her. The prosecutrix in her letters acknowledged that the appellant’s family was always very nice to her.” 

— Supreme Court

The Supreme Court said that the woman’s physical relations with the man was a “conscious and deliberate choice” and acquitted the man. “Her deep seated love for the appellant lead her to willingly permit him liberties with her body, which according to normal human behaviour are permitted only to a person with whom one is deeply in love,” the order said.