Need amendment to define what constitutes sexual intercourse on false promise to marry - Synopsis
Nilanjana Ganguly 19 May 2021

The Orissa High Court, recently comprised of a single judge bench led by Justice SK Panigrahi, emphasized the need for legislation to be amended to specifically define what constitutes sexual activity under the guise of a false promise of marriage. The facts of the case is that, the petitioner met the complainant at a relative's home, then called her and tricked her into falling in love with him. They became close friends, and the petitioner kept a physical connection to her promising marriage. The woman said that the applicant also gave her medication to abort the foetus after she became pregnant twice. Even after her parents agreed to the marriage, the applicant declined to marry the woman. As a result, her parents arranged for her to marry someone else. The applicant then posted personal photos of himself with the woman on fake Facebook pages, tarnishing the woman's character and causing her marriage to fail. Based on the applicant's conduct, a FIR was filed under various parts of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008. The petitioner had filed a bail application under Section 439 of Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Court observed, while reviewing the interrelationship between Section 90 (Consent understood to be granted under fear or misconception) and Section 375 of the IPC, that while the judiciary has dealt with the use of such terms, a specific perspective has not been reached and is still shrouded in uncertainty. According to the Court, rape laws should not be used to govern intimate relationships, particularly when women have agency and want to be in a relationship. However, it should be noted that many of the grievances come from economically deprived and impoverished segments of society and rural areas, where women are often lured into sex by men with false promises of marriage and then discarded as soon as they become pregnant. Rape legislation also fails to address their plight. Observing that a review of the FIR reveals prima facie clear charges against the accused applicant, the Court refused him bail after noting the risk of victim's family coercion, repetition of a similar form of crime, and fleeing from justice.


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