The Orissa High Court recently in the case of Rinku Pradhan v. State of Odisha and another underlined the need for amendment of the legislation to clearly define what constitutes sexual intercourse on the pretext of a false promise of marriage. The bench observed that in the present scenario, the law on the matter of sexual intercourse on the pretext of marriage ‘lacks clarity for conviction of the accused.

“The law holding that false promise to marriage amounts to rape appears to be erroneous. However, the plight of the victim and the probability of the accused tarnishing the dignity of the victim and her family need to be looked at while deliberating on the question of bail,” the single-judge bench of Justice SK Panigrahi stated.

The observation came while rejecting bail plea of a petitioner who allegedly lured the complainant to fall in love with him, kept physical relationship on promise of marriage, made her pregnant twice and aborted it by giving medicine and later refused to marry her.

When her parents fixed her marriage elsewhere, the accused uploaded her personal photographs on fake social media accounts created in her name. He was arrested and forwarded to jail on June 27, 2020. Justice Panigrahi said the law is well settled that consent obtained on a false promise to marry is not a valid consent.

Since the framers of the law have specifically provided the circumstances when ‘consent’ amounts to ‘no consent’ in terms of Section 375 of IPC, consent for the sexual act on pretext of marriage is not one of the circumstances mentioned under Section 375. “Hence, the automatic extension of provisions of Section 90 of IPC to determine the effect of consent under Section 375 deserves a serious relook,” he observed. 

The Court also said, “A perusal of the FIR and other documents available in the present case prima facie shows that there are very specific allegations against the petitioner. It is not, as if, the allegations are casual and sweeping against the accused generally. The possibility of coercion of victim’s family, repetition of similar type of offence and fleeing from justice cannot be ruled out in the present case. Therefore, the petitioner does not deserve to be granted bail.”

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