The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the arrest of a man accused of rape by his former partner, asking "... however brutal the husband is... when two people (are) living as husband and wife... can sexual intercourse between them be called rape?"
The court also stressed that nobody - man or woman - could make "false promises" to lead another into marriage, and said that such an act was "wrong".
The observations came as the court heard a petition filed by Vinay Pratap Singh, who has been accused of rape by a woman who was in a relationship with him for two years.
The woman, in an FIR (first information report) filed in 2019, alleged rape because Mr Singh had told her he would marry her but, earlier that year, had wed another person.
"Making false promise (of) marriage is wrong. No one should give false promise - either man or woman. Even women should not give promise...," Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said.
The Chief Justice added: "If a man and woman are living together, however insincerely... as man and wife... The man may be brutal and may do many wrongs (but) can you call it rape?"
In his petition Mr Singh asked that the FIR be quashed because, during their relationship, the couple had had sexual intercourse on the basis of consent. Senior lawyer Vibha Makhija, appearing for Mr Singh told court there was no marriage and that it was only a relationship".
However, this was refuted by the woman's lawyer, who argued that Mr Singh had promised to marry her and that a marriage ceremony was held at a temple in Manali. The lawyer also claimed that Mr Singh had brutally abused the woman, and provided medical records as evidence.
The petitioner, Mr Singh, had also argued that the woman had been in a relationship with other men as well, and that the rape charge had been added to harass him.
To this the court responded sharply, saying: "You cannot say this... she is a victim".
The court has granted Mr Singh protection from arrest for eight weeks and directed that he apply for regular bail. It was earlier going to grant bail till the trial court settled the case, but this was objected to by the woman's lawyer