“May I present myself before this honorable high court representing the Special Leave Petitioner in the case of Ramlal Purohit vs State of Uttar Pradesh in Allahabad High Court?”, said Mr. Lalaram Sharma, senior advocate, an elderly gentleman, dressed neatly in black silks.
He proceeded to address the bench of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after a nod from them. “May it please the honorable court, that my client Rajiv, is a software engineer working in Noida. He was happily married to Smt. Kamala until a few months ago. They have no children and this led to some disagreement between them. Their physical relationship had taken a turn for the worse and has become infrequent. One evening Kamala seemed to be in a cheerful mood and served him a delicious dinner and dessert. They got into an intimate conversation. One thing led to another and they ended up in bed together. Her attitude changed the next morning and she accused him of forcing himself on her. She shortly left for her parents’ home in Allahabad.
My client was shocked to receive a notice for divorce as well as a copy of an FIR, slapping charges of rape on him. Although the trial court or the single bench of the high court had found no evidence for forcible assault on the part of my client, the divisional bench saw it fit to allow the appeal by the respondent. He was arrested and charges framed. Aggrieved, he has applied and pleads with this honorable court to dismiss the criminal charges against him and render justice.”
A middle-aged lady advocate rose aggressively and addressed the court in an angry tone “The appellant had ignored the repeated protestations of my client. He said he was exercising his conjugal rights. Marriage is not a license to force an unwilling partner into an intimate relationship. It definitely amounts to rape. Post the honorable Verma commission report. Post the honorable Verma commission report, Marital Rape Exception (Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code) should not apply in this case. I request the honorable bench to uphold the high court order and render justice. The appellant deserves punitive and exemplary action.”
The judges asked several questions of both the advocates and reserved the order for fifteen days. There was a split verdict. While the junior judge found in favor of Kamala, the Chief Justice pronounced a dissenting order. He said, “Since the intimate affairs take place behind closed doors in the absence of evidence, one has to be very careful in issuing punitive orders. The very institution of marriage may be threatened. Several constitutional questions also arise. I plant to constitute a larger bench using this as a test case. In the interim, the appellant is granted protection from any adverse action until this issue is decided.”
There was pin-drop silence in the court. The question hung heavily on everyone’s mind, “Who is right? Who is wrong?”
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