It is true that many complaints are usually filed in cases of rape on the pretext of marriage, and a lot are settled outside court, but coercion can also lead to rapists getting off scot-free if such a precedent is set.
The Delhi High Court has refused to quash the FIR in a rape case after the accused agreed to marry the woman—in similar instances, the Bombay and Kerala High Courts had quashed FIRs using Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code that allows for the inherent powers of the High Court to prevail over the provisions of the CrPC if an order of the Court under this provision is passed to, among other things, “secure the ends of justice”. In this particular case, Justice Brijesh Sethi opined that rape falls under the category of severe and heinous crime, which could not be quashed even if parties had agreed to settle the dispute. So, even if the person had decided to marry the woman, the criminal case shall continue against him.
Even though SC had warned against HCs using Section 482 to quash cases where parties had amicably settled the matter—it had observed that rape is an offence against society, and is not a matter to be left for the parties concerned to compromise and settle—the practice has been widely prevalent across courts, on the grounds that it would harm the woman’s interest if the criminal case against the accused were to continue even after settlement. It is true that many complaints are usually filed in cases of rape on the pretext of marriage, and a lot are settled outside court, but coercion can also lead to rapists getting off scot-free if such a precedent is set. More so, when as per NCRB data, one-third of the 32,559 reported rape cases pertain to assault by a known person. Delhi HC has, thus, done well not to allow such infractions. Not only will it save the Court from frivolous litigation but also protect the rights of the petitioner, and given how rape cases are often settled in the hinterland, this will be a strong vote for justice.