In the first order of its kind, a man has been convicted on charges of rape, cruelty and harassment against his wife. Though, as per law, there is no penal provision for charging a man with the rape of his wife, the court held that the accused and the victim were first cousins and he had committed rape on her even before marriage, making it "incestuous".
While sentencing the man to a seven-year jail term for rape, the court said the man not only tortured the woman after marriage but also raped her — his first cousin — for more than 12 years before marriage, and forced her to marry him. "This is not a case where the accused has been accused of raping of his own wife for over 12 years but a case where he had been accused of raping his first cousin when she was a minor below the age of 15 years and was compelled to marry the accused on account of long term physical relations which he had made with the prosecutrix," Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau said while holding Inderpreet Singh guilty under Section 376 (rape) of IPC.
Even as the accused raised the objection that he cannot be convicted under Section 498A (cruelty and harassment against a woman by her husband or any member of matrimonial home) as their marriage was void as per the Hindu Law, the court justified its conviction under the penal provision saying, "this court has been informed that a petition has been moved for declaring the marriage between the accused and the victim as nullity which is pending before the competent court but that in itself will not mitigate the offence committed by the accused. The marriage between the prosecutrix and the accused being void is yet to be declared nullity by the competent court of law, the provisions of Section 498-A Indian Penal Code would hereby apply".
While sentencing him to a three-year jail term for harassment, the court also imposed a fine of Rs 1.05 lakh on Singh, stipulating that the amount should be given to the victim.
In its order, the court took a stern view of child abuse as the victim was raped even as a minor. "Crime against women has increased in recent years, most of the offenders being previously known to the victim or enjoying some kind of a fiduciary, family or trust relationship which they betray. It is for the Courts to meet these challenges by moulding the sentencing system to ensure that public confidence in the efficacy of law is not undermined," the court said.
The victim told the court that she was compelled to marry her cousin in March 2008 after she became pregnant. After the marriage, her husband began physically assaulting and subjecting her to mental cruelty. She alleged that Singh had been raping her since 1996 when she was just 15. As per the prosecution, Singh, 37, and the victim were living in a joint family and he used to teach her when she was preparing for her class 10 board exams.
Court held that the accused and the victim were first cousins and he raped her for 12 years before marriage, making it "incestuous". She was a minor below 15 years then and was forced to marry him.