Husband not liable under Section 377 IPC for unnatural sex with wife: Madhya Pradesh High Court quashes FIR against MLA Umang Singhar

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The Madhya Pradesh High Court recently ruled that a husband cannot be held liable under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for non-consensual “unnatural” sexual relations with his wife since Indian law presently does not recognise marital rape [Umang Singhar v State & Anr]
The Court said that Section 375 (which defines ‘rape’) of the IPC specifically excludes marital sexual relations from its purview.

The Court also observed that anything done between a husband and a wife that is beyond what is viewed as natural sexual intercourse cannot be categorically labeled as ‘unnatural’ sexual intercourse since marital relationship is not merely for procreation.

“When same act as per the definition of Section 375 is not an offence, then how it can be treated to be an offence under Section 377 IPC …The relationship between the husband and wife cannot be confined to their sexual relationship only for the purpose of procreation, but if anything is done between them apart from the deemed natural sexual intercourse should not be defined as ‘unnatural’,” the Court held.

Justice Sanjay Dwivedi, therefore, quashed a first information report (FIR) filed by the wife of sitting member of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly Umang Singhar alleging that he had committed rape and the offence under Section 377 (unnatural offences) of the IPC.

The Court passed its ruling while also referring to the Supreme Court judgment in the Navtej Singh Johar case, wherein the top court had ruled that a consensual sexual relation between homosexual persons is not a crime.

Normally, a sexual relationship between the husband and wife is the key to a happy connubial life and that cannot be restricted to the extent of sheer procreation, the High Court said, in the present case.

“If anything raises their longing towards each other giving them pleasure and ascends their pleasure then it is nothing uncustomary and it can also not be considered to be unnatural that too when Section 375 IPC includes all possible parts of penetration of penis by a husband to his wife,” the Court added.

The Court also examined the definition of ‘rape’ under Section 375.

As the law stands, the Court noted that consent is not necessary for sexual acts between spouses. As such, no unnatural offence could be established in relation to sexual acts between spouses, the Court said.

“As per the amended definition, if offender and victim are husband and wife then consent is immaterial and no offence under Section 375 is made out and as such there is no punishment under Section 376 of IPC,” the judgment said.

The Court also commented that if procreation is viewed as the only purpose of sexual relations between spouses, then a marital relationship would be reduced to being useless if the spouses are unable to procreate.

“If sexual intercourse for procreation via penile-vaginal penetrative intercourse is considered to be natural sex and sexual relations of husband and wife is confined to that extent then in case if any husband or wife is not capable of procreation, then seemingly their relationship would become useless, but it does not happen. The conjugal relationship between husband wife includes love that has intimacy, compassion and sacrifice, although it is difficult to understand the emotions of husband and wife who share intimate bond, but sexual pleasure is integral part of their relentless bonding with each other,” the Court said.

In the present case, the husband was accused by his wife of engaging in unnatural sexual acts with her.

The husband’s lawyer argued that these allegations were unfounded since the alleged sexual acts were performed while he was married to the complainant.

After hearing rival submissions, the Court concluded that the husband’s actions did not constitute an offence punishable under Sections 376(2)(n) (rape) and Section 377 (carnal inter­course against the order of nature) of the IPC.

The Court also noted that both parties were members of the same political party who had married after a longstanding relationship. However, when their relationship deteriorated, both parties filed complaints against each other, the Court observed.

The Court proceeded to also dismiss allegations leveled by the wife against the husband concerning offences under Section 294 (obscene acts or songs) and Section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC, terming it to be a malicious prosecution.

Further, the Court also found that there was no allegation of any dowry demand to allege the commission of an offence under Section 498A (cruelty to woman) IPC.

The husband’s plea to quash the criminal complaint against him was,, therefore, allowed by the High Court.

Advocates Vibhor Khandelwal, Ashish Agrawal and Jayesh Gurnam represented the petitioner (husband). Advocate Puneet Shroti appeared for the State. Senior Advocate Sanjay Agrawal and advocate Rahul Gupta appeared for second respondent (wife).

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