Punjab & Haryana High Court Upholds Discharge of Man Accused of Rape Under Pretext of Marriage

Punjab & Haryana HC upheld discharge of rape accused due to consensual cohabitation pre-FIR. Accused and victim lived together before marriage compromise.

In a recent ruling, the Punjab & Haryana High Court has upheld the discharge of a man accused of committing rape on his partner under the pretext of marriage. Justice Harpreet Singh Brar, presiding over the case, emphasized that the woman involved had consensually cohabited with the accused, and the registration of the FIR stemmed from a subsequent dispute rather than non-consensual acts.

"The petitioner (alleged rape victim) was consensually cohabitating with respondent no. 2 (accused partner), and it was only due to a dispute that arose later in time that the FIR...was registered. As such, this Court cannot allow the criminal justice system to be misused to avenge a failed relationship," noted Justice Brar.

The case stemmed from a plea filed by an alleged rape victim challenging an order of a Rohtak Court, which discharged the accused from offenses under Sections 376(2)(n), 109, 406, 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The woman had alleged that she was raped by her partner under the guise of marriage, and despite a compromise being reached in the Panchayat, the accused failed to fulfill his obligations.

According to the petitioner's counsel, medical examinations indicated the possibility of sexual intercourse having occurred. Additionally, the counsel pointed out that the accused had admitted to engaging in sexual intercourse with the petitioner under false pretenses of taking her to Canada, as per the panchayat compromise.

In deliberating over the case, the Court highlighted that during the preliminary stages under Sections 227, 239, and 240 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the trial court is tasked with forming a presumptive opinion regarding the existence of the alleged offense's factual ingredients. Referring to precedent, the Court cited the principle that if the essential elements of an offense are not established from the prosecution's evidence, there is no obligation on the part of the court to frame charges against the accused.

In this particular instance, the Court noted that the petitioner and the accused had lived together even before any formal marriage ceremony, pursuant to the compromise. Subsequently, they cohabited in a rented accommodation after purportedly entering into a marriage, although the Court refrained from commenting on the legality of the marriage itself. It concluded that the petitioner had been "consensually cohabitating" with the accused, and the FIR was filed following a later dispute.

The Court drew upon the case of Shivankar v. State of Karnataka (2019), where it was acknowledged that, despite the absence of formal marriage, the couple lived together akin to a married couple, which influenced the court's decision.

Based on these considerations, the Punjab & Haryana High Court upheld the trial court's decision to discharge the accused, highlighting the importance of assessing the evidence and context surrounding allegations of criminal offenses.