The Supreme Court has decided to examine whether civil liability can be fastened on a man, who walked out of a promise to marry a woman after long cohabitation (live-in) and a consensual sexual relationship, by treating such a relation as "de-facto" marriage.
Observing that many-a-time such a relation resulted in a break-up and an offence of rape was not made out, the top court said in such a case, the woman should not be rendered "remediless" and subjected to any kind of exploitation, even if a criminal offence is not made out against the man.
This is an issue which needs to be examined, it said.
The sensitive matter came up before a bench of Justices AK Goel and S Abdul Nazeer when it was seized of a petition of a man challenging the order of a trial court and the high court refusing to quash a case of rape against a woman in Karnataka.
The Supreme Court issued a notice to Attorney General KK Venugopal and requested him to depute an Additional Solicitor General to assist the court. It also requested senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi to assist the court as amicus, or friend of the court, and posted the matter for hearing on September 12.
The man had promised to marry the woman with whom he had lived for six years but later backed out. "Thus, she was induced for intercourse during the cohabitation (live-in) on that consideration and not by free consent. The petitioner committed offence under Section 376 - punishment for rape - of Indian Penal Code.
"With the trial court having taken cognisance, the petitioner approached the High Court for quashing it. The High Court rejected the prayer for quashing," the Supreme Court noted.
It also noted that during the course of the hearing, a question which arose for consideration was whether, on account of long cohabitation (live-in), even if the relationship was held to be consensual, and the petitioner is not held liable for the alleged offence, he can be held responsible under civil liability by treating the relationship to be a de facto marriage.
"This interpretation may have to be considered so that a girl is not subjected to any exploitation and is not rendered remediless even if a criminal offence is not made out. Somewhat identical issue has been subject matter of consideration in several decisions...," the Supreme Court bench said referring to other cases in which similar issues have been the subject matter of consideration in several decisions.
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