Marriage not considered as ‘contract’ in India: Law Minister

Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar on Saturday said that marriage is not deemed to be a contract in India.

Mumbai: Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar on Saturday said one of the reasons for not making marital rape an offence under the latest ordinance was that marriage is not deemed to be a contract in India, unlike in "other democratic countries".

Speaking at a function organised by the Indian Merchants Chambers here, the Minister said the law must reflect the "contemporary realities".

"Law cannot be made or amended keeping just one case in mind. Laws have to be made in such a manner that it can endure in every case for decades. Laws must reflect contemporary realities of society and should help the country progress and not regress," Kumar said.

Speaking about the recently promulgated Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance which amends laws related to sexual offences, he said "we have for the moment not included marital rape in the Ordinance for various reasons. One of them being that in our country marriage is not treated as a contract unlike in other democratic countries. However, when a wife is separated from her husband and if he sexually assaults her, then he will be booked."

The ordinance would be placed before the cabinet next week, he said. "After the December 2012 (Delhi) gang-rape case that shook the collective conscience of the society, the government in a record time prepared the bill," he added.

"There is a need for introspection and reflection to ensure that laws are not capable of being abused. If there are gaps in the law, it can lead to gross violation," Kumar said.

Giving the example of section 498 (A) of Indian Penal Code which penalises dowry harassment, Kumar said "this section is being abused a lot. But I cannot do anything about it as if I do, several women`s organisations will rise against it. But what needs to be seen is that the women only are being accused under 498 (A)."