New Delhi: A man, who had married a minor after eloping with her and had a child with her, has been acquitted of rape charges by a Delhi court on the ground that having physical relations with one`s minor wife whose age is over 15-year-old is not rape.
The court said the girl, who was less than 16 years of age at the time of the incident, had eloped with the man on her own and citing a Delhi High Court judgement, it added that if the minor does not seek annulment of her marriage, it would remain valid.
The court, however, held Uttar Pradesh resident Pradeep Maurya guilty of kidnapping as the girl was minor when they had ran away and sentenced him to jail term already undergone by him during trial.
Maurya had been put on trial on charges of kidnapping a minor girl, marrying her and having a child from her after subjecting her to sexual intercourse against her wishes.
According to the prosecution, Maurya had kidnapped the girl, also his distant relative, in October 2010 with an intention to force her for marriage. The girl`s father had registered a complaint with the police that his daughter was missing and had suspected Maurya of kidnapping her.
Maurya was found in his village in Barabanki along with the girl and their 10-day-old child and were brought to Delhi, it added.
The court acquitted Maurya of the charges of forcing her to marry him and raping her saying that it has no material on record to justify his conviction on this count.
"No doubt, the accused had sexual intercourse with the girl and she was less than 16 years of age at that time, but it is to be borne in mind that Maurya had sexual intercourse with her after solemnising the marriage with her and not before that.”
"As per the provisions of section 375 of IPC, sexual intercourse with one`s own wife when the wife is more than 15 years of age is not rape," the court said. The judge also referred to a recent judgment of the Delhi High Court in which it had ruled that the marriage with a female of less than 18 years or a male of 21 years would not be void marriage but a voidable one, which would become valid, if no steps are taken by such `child` seeking declaration of the marriage as void.
"In the present case, no such step has been taken by the girl and she is stated to have resumed stay and cohabitation with the accused. Therefore, the marriage between the accused and the girl continues to be valid so long as she does not seek it to be declared a void marriage and the cohabitation between the two continues to be a lawful one, not amounting to rape," the judge said, adding that it was apparent that the girl was living happily with the accused as his wife.
The court held Maurya guilty of kidnapping the girl on the ground that on October 27, 2010, the date of incident, she was less than 16 year of age and her consent was "immaterial".