It was not rape; they were deeply in love, held the Supreme Court as it exonerated a man following his 21-year ordeal. It noted that the girl had accused him of rape because they belonged to different religions and could not marry.
The man from Jharkhand was booked under the charge of rape and illegal confinement in 1999. Even as the girl’s complaint cited the incidents from four years ago, he was held guilty by a trial court and was sentenced to seven years in jail.
The Jharkhand High Court too affirmed his punishment despite his showing love letters between the two and the fact that the complainant had stayed with him at his house for a fortnight without any whisper of protest.
It has taken more than two decades for the man’s fate to finally turn around.
On Monday, a bench headed by Justice RF Nariman called it unfortunate that the High Court failed to suitably assess the evidence on record, including the love letters and their photographs together.
It rejected the girl’s testimony that she was forced into the sexual relationship and that her consent was either out of fear or fraudulently obtained on the false pretext of marriage.
“We have no hesitation in concluding that the consent of the prosecutrix was but a conscious and deliberated choice, as distinct from an involuntary action or denial and which opportunity was available to her, because of her deep¬-seated love for the appellant… Leading her to willingly permit him liberties with her body, which according to normal human behaviour are permitted only to a person with whom one is deeply in love,” held Justice Navin Sinha, authoring the judgment.
It underlined that the man belonged to the Scheduled Tribe while the girl was Christian. “They professed different religious beliefs in a traditional society. The nature and manner of allegations, coupled with the letters exchanged between them, make it apparent that their love for each other grew and matured over a sufficient period of time,” maintained the bench.
It added: “They were both smitten by each other and passions of youth ruled over their minds and emotions. The physical relations that followed were not isolated or sporadic in nature, but regular over the years. The prosecutrix had even gone and resided in the house of the appellant.”
The judgment also commented on four years’ delay in registration of the FIR, noting she went to the police a week before the man was to marry someone else.
“But the appellant did not make any false promise or intentional misrepresentation of marriage leading to establishment of physical relationship between the parties. The prosecutrix was herself aware of the obstacles in their relationship because of different religious beliefs,” said the bench, concluding that the entire genesis of the case is in serious doubt and hence the man cannot be held guilty of the alleged offences.