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Husband’s Unnatural Sex With Wife Not A Crime, Consent Irrelevant: Madhya Pradesh High Court

Sanskriti Tiwari ,
  08 June 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
Madhya Pradesh High Court
Brief :

Citation :
Misc. Criminal Case No. 40044 of 2023

CASE NAME:

Shashank Harsh vs. State of Madhya Pradesh

CASE DATE:

28th May, 2024

PARTIES INVOLVED:-

  • Petitioners:-
  1. Mr Shashank Harsh
  2. Smt Saroj Harsh
  3. Shweta Shaleen Wheeler
  4. Mr. Leslie Ashish Wheeler
  • Respondents:-
  1. The State of Madhya Pradesh
  2. Alice

BENCH/JUDGE:

Justice Prem Narayan Singh

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:-

1.    Section 377 of IPC:- 

Addresses unnatural offenses, criminalizing certain types of sexual acts.

2.    Section 498-A of IPC:- 

Pertains to cruelty by a husband or his relatives towards a woman, including demands for dowry.

3.    Section 294 of IPC:- 

Deals with obscene acts and songs in public places.

4.    Section 506 of IPC:- 

Relates to criminal intimidation, including threats to cause harm.

5.    Section 482 of Cr.P.C.:- 

Provides the High Court with the inherent power to make orders necessary to prevent abuse of the process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

SUBJECT:-

The petitioners sought to quash an FIR alleging unnatural sex, forced abortion, dowry demands and harassment by the complainant, petitioner no.1’s wife. Despite a significant delay in filing and lack of medical evidence, the complainant detailed incidents of abuse, while the petitioners argued the allegations were false and motivated by matrimonial disputes.

OVERVIEW:-

The petitioners filed a petition under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. to quash an FIR bearing Crime No.407/2023, registered at Police Station-Shyamgarh, District Mandsaur, under Sections 377, 498-A, 294 and 506 of IPC. The complainant alleged that her marriage with petitioner no.1 on 09.12.2021 was followed by unnatural sex on 09.01.2022, causing her a mouth infection. She also claimed she was forced to abort her pregnancy, subjected to dowry demands of Rs.20 lakhs and tortured verbally and physically. Additional allegations included harassment and alienation from her family by the petitioners. Despite a delay of 1 year and 9 months in lodging the FIR and the absence of medical evidence for the mouth infection, the complainant provided a written complaint detailing these incidents. She also mentioned that petitioner no.1 booked expensive flight tickets for her at her father’s death. It was further alleged that she did not live with her in-laws and faced harassment and threats over the phone related to dowry demands.

ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT:-

  1. Whether the allegations of unnatural sex between the husband and wife constituted an offense under Section 377 of IPC?
  2. Whether the petitioners’ demands for dowry and alleged harassment met the criteria for an offense under Section 498-A of IPC?
  3. Whether the verbal abuse and threats constituted offenses under Sections 294 and 506 of IPC?
  4. Whether the FIR should be quashed due to the significant delay in lodging it and lack of substantiating medical evidence?

CONTENTIONS RAISED ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER:-

  • The learned counsel for the petitioners argued that the allegations were false and intended to criminalize a matrimonial dispute. 
  • The counsel emphasized that the allegations of unnatural sex were baseless as such acts between a husband and wife do not constitute an offense under Section 377 of IPC. 
  • The defense also highlighted the delay in filing the FIR and lack of medical evidence supporting the complainant’s claims.
  • The counsel stated that the complainant’s claims of dowry demand and forced abortion were unsubstantiated and motivated by a desire for vengeance. The abortion was a mutual decision, as indicated by a consent letter and WhatsApp chats.
  • They further contended that the petitioners had a supportive and cordial relationship with the complainant and had not made unreasonable demands, while the complainant was abusive, harassed petitioner no.1 and alienated him from his family. 

CONTENTIONS RAISED ON BEHALF OF THE RESPONDENT:-

  • The learned counsel for the respondents opposed the petition, asserting that unnatural sex with one’s own wife is punishable under Section 377 of IPC. 
  • They argued that there were specific allegations of harassment and forced abortion that justified the continuation of legal proceedings.
  • The allegations of dowry demands and associated harassment were supported by the complainant’s FIR and statements recorded under Sections 164 and 161 of CrPC. The FIR and supporting statements from witnesses provided sufficient grounds to proceed with the charges under Sections 377, 498-A, 294 and 506 of IPC.
  • The respondents contended that no case was made out for quashing of the FIR and the further proceedings and therefore, the petition should be dismissed.

ANALYSIS BY COURT:-

  • The court noted that the amended definition of Section 375 includes various forms of penetration and that consensual acts between spouses do not constitute an offense under Section 377.
  • It noted a significant delay in lodging the FIR without proper explanation.
  • There was no medical evidence provided to substantiate the claim of mouth infection.
  • The court observed that for an offense under Section 377 IPC, consent is a crucial factor and if there is consent, no offense is made out, especially between a husband and wife.
  • The court found that the relationship between a husband and wife includes various forms of intimacy beyond procreation and should not be confined to penal definitions of unnatural sex.
  • No evidence was available to support offenses under Sections 294 and 506 IPC, as the incidents occurred in private and did not instil sufficient fear or threaten the complainant. However, the allegations regarding dowry demands and harassment met the criteria for an offense under Section 498-A IPC, supported by statements and other documentary evidence.

JUDGMENT:-

The court found no evidence to support offenses under Sections 377, 294 and 506 of IPC and quashed these charges. However, it determined that there were sufficient allegations to constitute an offense under Section 498-A of IPC, which pertains to cruelty and unlawful demands for dowry. Therefore, the petition was partially allowed; the charges under Sections 377, 294 and 506 were quashed, while the charge under Section 498-A was upheld, and the petition was dismissed in that regard.

CONCLUSION:-

After scrutinizing the allegations made by the complainant against the petitioners under various sections of the IPC, the court concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the claims of unnatural sex (Section 377), public obscenity (Section 294) and criminal intimidation (Section 506). However, the court found substantial evidence to uphold the charge of cruelty related to dowry demands and harassment (Section 498-A). This case highlights the complexities involved in matrimonial disputes and the judicial process in differentiating between criminal acts and allegations arising from marital discord. The judgment reflects a careful balance between dismissing unsubstantiated claims while recognizing legitimate grievances related to domestic abuse and dowry harassment.
 

 
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