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Bombay High Court: ‘Intimate Adult Relationship No Justification for Sexual Assault’

The Bombay High Court delivered a significant judgment on Friday, emphasizing that a consensual relationship between adults does not justify sexual assault.

The court made these observations while refusing to quash an FIR filed against a man accused of raping his neighbor under the pretext of marriage.

The Bombay High Court’s Observations on Consent and Change in Relationship Dynamics

The High Court highlighted that while a relationship may begin consensually, it can evolve over time. The court stressed that when one partner expresses unwillingness to engage in sexual relations, the character of the relationship ceases to be consensual.

Case Background and Allegations

According to the case details, the woman, a resident of Karad, Satara, had divorced her husband and was living with her four-year-old son after her parents passed away in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The accused, who rented a neighboring house, befriended her and allegedly promised marriage.

Despite the woman’s repeated refusals, the man allegedly raped her in July 2022. He later introduced her to his parents but began avoiding her afterward. When the woman inquired about their marriage, the accused’s parents reportedly abused her, citing caste differences as a barrier to their union. The woman further alleged that the man threatened her and her son with violence.

Defense Arguments and Court’s Response

The accused’s advocate argued that marriage was not feasible since the woman was already married, and the FIR was lodged after a delay of 13 months. The defense contended that consensual sexual relations between adults do not constitute rape unless consent was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation.

Medical Evidence and Court’s Decision

The woman’s legal counsel pointed to the medico-legal examination report, which indicated the possibility of forcible sexual intercourse. The High Court noted that despite an initial intimate relationship, the FIR alleged that the accused engaged in sexual intercourse forcibly.

Verdict

A bench comprising Justices Ajey Gadkari and Neela Gokhale concluded that the allegations in the FIR prima facie indicated the commission of the alleged offense. The court emphasized that the complainant’s desire for marriage did not imply continuous consent for sexual relations, thereby rejecting the accused’s defense.

The Bombay High Court’s decision underscores the principle that consent for sexual relations must be continuous and genuine. It highlights the importance of respecting boundaries in intimate relationships and reaffirms legal protections against sexual assault, regardless of the relationship’s initial terms. The case serves as a reminder of the judiciary’s role in upholding justice and safeguarding the rights of individuals in vulnerable situations.

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