In a recent decision, the Bombay High Court discharged a man accused of rape by false promise to marry, stating that the offense was not established as the accused had been willing to marry the complainant but was unable to do so due to parental disapproval, a circumstance beyond his control.

The case, heard by Justice MW Chandwani of the Nagpur Bench, saw the court finding no evidence indicating that the accused did not intend to marry the complainant from the outset. The court emphasized that despite the accused retracting his promise due to his parents’ objection to the marriage, it could not be construed as rape under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The court characterized the situation as a case of non-fulfillment or breach of promise resulting from unforeseen circumstances beyond the accused’s control, namely, his parents’ refusal to consent to the marriage.

The accused, represented by Advocate J.M. Gandhi, argued that the physical relations between him and the complainant were consensual, stemming from a love affair, with WhatsApp chats supporting his claim. Additionally, the complainant continued the relationship even after the promise of marriage was revoked.

On the other hand, the Additional Public Prosecutor, SA Ashirgade, contended that the complainant’s consent was obtained under false pretenses, as the accused never intended to marry her.

The court noted that the complainant, aged 33, and the accused initially shared a friendly relationship, which later evolved into a romantic affair around 2016. While the charge-sheet detailed numerous instances of physical intimacy allegedly occurring under the pretext of marriage, the court opined that the complainant was aware of the implications, and her consent was not solely based on the promise of marriage.

Drawing on precedents such as Pramod Suryabhan Pawar v. State of Maharashtra and Dr. Dhruvaram Murlidhar Sonar v. State of Maharashtra, the court stressed the importance of substantial evidence indicating the accused’s lack of intent to marry from the outset.

The court ’Ighlighted WhatsApp conversations illustrating the accused’s initial willingness to marry the complainant and her subsequent refusal. However, when the accused became engaged to another person, the complainant filed the complaint.

Ultimately, the court ruled that no offense was established against the accused, and further proceedings would amount to an abuse of the legal process. In line with the principles laid down in the case of State of Haryana v. Ch. Bhajan Lal, the court quashed the sessions court’s order and discharged the accused from the case.

This landmark decision, encapsulating the nuances of consent, promise, and intention, sets a significant precedent in cases involving allegations of rape by false promise to marry. It underscores the need for thorough examination of evidence and intent before attributing criminal liability, ensuring justice is served with fairness and equity.

The judgment reaffirms the judiciary’s commitment to upholding the rule of law while safeguarding individual rights and liberties, marking a pivotal moment in the legal landscape surrounding cases of this nature.

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