Marital rape good ground to claim divorce, says Kerala HC

Kochi:  In a ruling that could have far-reaching implication in divorce cases, the Kerala High Court on Friday held that that marital rape can be a good ground to claim divorce.

The verdict by a division bench of Justices A. Muhamed Mustaque and K. Edappagath came as it turned down an appeal filed by the husband challenging a judgement of a family court granting divorce on the ground of cruelty and dismissal of a petition for restitution of conjugal rights.

While the family court, granting divorce, pointed out that the husband often sought financial assistance from his father-in-law besides physically and mentally abusing his wife, the high court went a step further.

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It ruled that “a husband’s licentious disposition disregarding the autonomy of the wife is a marital rape, albeit such conduct cannot be penalised, it falls in the frame of physical and mental cruelty… Merely for the reason that the law does not recognise marital rape under penal law, it does not inhibit the court from recognising the same as a form of cruelty to grant divorce. We, therefore, are of the view that marital rape is a good ground to claim divorce”.

The bench also pointed out that while marital rape is not a criminal offence under Indian law, it amounts to cruelty and can, therefore, entitle a wife to divorce.

It also noted that the “insatiable urge for wealth and sex” of the husband had forced the respondent to take a decision for divorce.

“The appellant’s licentious and profligate conduct cannot be considered as part of normal conjugal life. Therefore, we have no difficulty in holding that insatiable urge for wealth and sex of a spouse would also amount to cruelty,” the court ruled as it upheld the divorce granted by family court.

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