On Tuesday (January 2nd), Delhi High Court heard a batch of petitions filed by NGO RIT Foundation and All India Democratic Women’s Association seeking to criminalise the act of marital rape by challenging as unconstitutional the exception to Section 375 and Section 376B of the Indian Penal Code. A bench comprising of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar heard the petitions.
Advocate Karuna Nundy, appearing on behalf of petitioner, argued that 52 countries in the world have criminalised marital rape as they sought a direction to make it a criminal offense. The court asked the petitioners if there was any study done on the impact of criminalising marital rape in countries such as Nepal, Britain or the US.
The court remarked that the exception in the law granting immunity to a husband was very wide, giving him absolute freedom to do whatever he wanted in a marital bond.
Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Khushboo Saifi, who is one of the petitioners, said the number of women who experienced sexual violence by husbands was 40 times the number of women who experienced sexual violence by non-intimate perpetrators.
The Central government had submitted before the court that criminalising marital rape "may destabilise the institution of marriage" and would become an easy tool for harassing husband.
As reported by news agencies, the bench of the Delhi High Court held, "Marriage bond gives you immunity against anything. Once you bring exception it will change the meaning of the whole act".
The court will continue hearing the matter on Wednesday (January 3rd).