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Supreme Court verdict on exception to rape law likely today

by Bhavya DubeyOctober 11, 2017

The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce on Wednesday its verdict on a petition challenging the validity of an exception clause in the rape law that permits sexual intercourse between a man and his wife who is not below 15 years. The matter has been listed for judgment in the court of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta. The bench had reserved its order in the case on September 6.

The petition by NGO Independent Thought had challenged the exception clause (2) in Section 375 IPC (which deals with rape) that says intercourse or sexual act by a man with his wife, not below 15 years, is not rape. This created a dichotomy as the age of consent was 18 years, it was contended.

The petitioners prayed that the clause be struck down as it is “violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution”.
Hearing the plea, the court had asked the Centre how Parliament could create such an exception in law. The apex court, however, clarified that it did not want to go into the aspect of marital rape, but asked why such an exception was created when the age of consent was 18 years for “all purposes”.

The Centre replied that doing away with this exception would open up the arena of marital rape, which does not exist in India. The Centre’s counsel had referred to the concept of the age of puberty among Muslims for the purpose of marriage and said these aspects have been deliberated upon by Parliament before arriving at a conclusion.

The petitioners also contended that the exception clause went against the objectives of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and was also in violation of international conventions to which India was a signatory.

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