Justice M Dhandapani- False promise of marriage

Madras High Court has come down heavily on a woman using ‘false promise of marriage’ ground to falsely accuse a man of rape. The court found the man had been falsely implicated by the woman and exhorted the courts dealing with cases of sex on false promise of marriage, to not only protect the women, but at the same time also to ensure that innocent men are not victimized by vicious women folk.On June 21, Justice M Dhandapani set aside the conviction of one Rahul Gandhi (not the newly elected leader of Opposition in India) charged under Sections 375 (rape), 376 (punishment for rape), 90 (consent given under fear or misconception) and 417 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The Court found that the victim’s account of Gandhi having sexually assaulted her on false promise of marriage to be untruthful.

The Court, mindful of the fact that cases of sexual assault against women in India were on the rise, said it was the duty of the courts to “separate the grain from the chaff while analyzing evidence.”

The judge said it was not just male folk who misuse the women folk.

“…in the legal conundrum, vicious persons belonging to the female folk, do misuse the law to their advantage and, therefore, in cases of such nature, the duty cast on the court is two-fold, not only to see that women are not misused but equally, the law is not misused against the male folk as well,” Justice M Dhandapani said.

An already married, and father of one child, Rahul Gandhi and the woman were having an affair which lasted about three years before she agreed to have sex with him. Their houses were close to each other and they lived in the same street. Not only the complainant woman knew about his marriage, she also knew Rahul’s wife Dhanalakshmi who was also from the same village.

Under cross-examination, she had further confessed the she had fallen in love with him before his marriage to Dhanalakshmi and was fully aware of him being married at the time she went physical with him.

And she wanted him to marry her and then lodged the complaint of ‘false promise of marriage’ against him, claiming that he had forced her to have sexual intercourse with him on the promise that he would marry her.

Under the Indian law, for the charges to be upheld, the woman consenting to sex must be under a ‘misconception of marriage’ driven by the man and he must be aware of the fact that the woman would not consent to sex if she was not under that misconception.

The Madras High Court found that misconception of marriage was not a possibility given the facts of the case and both the man and the woman living so close to each other and knowing practically everything about each other.

There was no material to show that Rahul Gandhi knew that the woman was “subjecting herself only to the misconception that the he would marry her”, an essential element to attract the relevant charges.

The court found the woman was a consenting party to the sexual act, and allowing Gandhi’s appeal, acquitted him of all charges.

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