Is sex based on the false promise of marriage considered “rape”?

In Deepak Gulati vs State Of Haryana case in 2013, the Supreme Court of India held that sex based on the false promise of marriage can be rape in certain situations. The apex court observed that there is a clear distinction between rape and consensual sex and the court must very carefully examine whether the accused had actually wanted to marry the victim, or had mala fide motives.

If the accused had made a false promise to only to satisfy his lust, it will fall within the ambit of cheating or deception and there is a distinction between the mere breach of a promise, and not fulfilling a false promise. The court further said that it must be examined whether promise was made at an early stage and whether the consent involved was given after wholly, understanding the nature and consequences of sexual indulgence.

However, the court clarified that in some situations the prosecutrix agrees to have sexual intercourse on account of her love and passion for the accused, and not solely on account of misrepresentation made to her by the accused, the situation does not necessarily lead to rape and the court must consider other evidence as well for support.

Similarly, where an accused on account of circumstances which he could not have foreseen, or which were beyond his control, was unable to marry her, despite having every intention to do so, the case should be treated differently and cannot be considered rape if the other available evidence do not prove otherwise.

The fundamental principle behind the consent

The last year, the Delhi High Court held that a sexual relationship with a woman after making her a false promise of marriage amounts to rape. The conclusion was based on the logic that the so-called consent under a false promise of marriage is no consent. It further observed that a man receiving consent to sexual relations under false pretext does not amount to legal or valid consent and saving him from being accused and punished for rape.

Widening the ambit of the law, the Delhi Court held that even if the woman is assumed to be a willing participant in their physical union, the fact that the man had no intention of marrying her would make it an instance where consent was given under a misconception, nullifying the efficacy of approval.

 

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