The stand taken by the courts that having sex on false promise of marriage amounts to rape has of late led to a spurt of such cases getting filed in police stations. There is a feeling in legal circles that a rape complaint is being used as a veiled threat by “jilted” women to either coerce their estranged lovers into marriage or use it as a tool to take revenge on them.
Police officers, especially in All Women Police Stations, confess that they often invoke the stringent IPC Section 376 (rape) to put pressure on a man, who refuses to marry his girlfriend after “spoiling her life.”
“In our society, nobody will come forward to marry a woman who has had sexual relationship with other persons. The situation of the girl’s family will be pathetic. So we tell the man either to face rape charges, for which he can even get life sentence, or marry the woman,” says a woman Assistant Commissioner of Police seeking anonymity. She says she had convinced many men to marry their lovers by deploying this “technique”.
Though invoking the rape law under such circumstances might seem to be done on compassionate grounds by the police, legal activists say this is simply a manipulation of law.
“If a man deserts a woman after sexually exploiting her on promise of marriage it is only cheating and criminal breach of trust, definitely not rape. Such a wrong interpretation of law would lead to criminalisation of even a casual relationship,” said lawyer and activist M Sudha Ramalingam.
Jurists say the reason why a man or woman decides to end a love relationship need not always be criminal. Last year, the state witnessed a high profile case when a woman alleged that a trainee IPS officer Varunkumar, who allegedly had a relationship with her while preparing for the civil service exams, ditched her after getting selected for IPS.
Lawyers also argue that such far-fetched interpretation of laws often leads to weakening the case of the woman victim. “I know a case where in the woman actually wanted to lodge only a cheating complaint against her ex-lover for deserting her after pregnancy. The police framed it as a case of rape, which is far-fetched. Finally, the rape charge did not stand the scrutiny of the court and the man got acquitted,” pointed out Sudha.