The discussion on marital rape has gained impetus and the delay in the Centre’s reply to the Delhi High Court notice on marital rape law has come under fire. The Delhi HC hearing pleas against marital rape had said that it cannot keep the matter hanging.
On January 23, the court said that the centre may have its own process but the matter cannot be kept hanging beyond a specific period. This observation of the court took place after the centre asked for more time to file a fresh response to the petition.
The bench led by Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice C Hari Shankar gave the government a ten days window to file a fresh response to the case, which have been pending since 2015. While giving the ultimatum, the bench said, “For some people, every day matter for a simple reason that some say this abuse is happening. Maybe not reported or reported but this is happening. So it cannot be our answer to them ‘listen, this has been there for hundred years, now what is the urgency.’ Now that we have started, we would like to conclude.”
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The Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta had submitted that the government was consulting the process on the given subject and needs ‘reasonable time.’ Mehta said, “Your lordships are not just deciding the constitutional validity of the statutory provision. It may not be looked at from the microscopic angle…Here the dignity of a woman is at stake. There are family issues.”
However, the court gave the government 10 days to make a decision file a response and call the matter urgent. The court is hearing petitions against Exception 2 of Section 375 in the Indian Penal Code, which protects men, who have non-consensual sex with their wives unless the age of the wife is below 15 years.
Last year when the Gujarat High Court was listening to a petition against marital rape, the petitioner Sahil Thakore said that this exception is granted on the basis of the Doctrine of Converture which is based on a woman being stripped of her individual identity and seen as husband’s property. This outlook is against the Constitution of India, which treats men and women as equals. It is also against Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.