SC: A breach of promise to marry is different from a false promise to marry

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 21st August 2019, in the matter of Pramod Suryabhan Pawar v. The State of Maharashtra & Anr.observed that there is a distinction between a false promise to marry and a breach of a promise to marry which is made in good faith but subsequently not fulfilled. Where the intention of the maker at the time of making the promise to marry, itself was not to abide by it but to deceive the woman to convince her to engage in sexual relations, there is a “misconception of fact” that vitiates the woman’s “consent”.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

Section 482 is an overriding section which saves the inherent powers of the court to advance the cause of justice. Under Section 482 the inherent jurisdiction of the court can be exercised (i) to give effect to an order under the CrPC; (ii) to prevent the abuse of the process of the court; and (iii) to otherwise secure the ends of justice. The powers of the court under Section 482 are wide and the court is vested with a significant amount of discretion to decide whether or not to exercise them. The court should be guarded in the use of its extraordinary jurisdiction to quash an FIR or criminal proceeding as it denies the prosecution the opportunity to establish its case through investigation and evidence. (Para 7)

In deciding whether to exercise its jurisdiction under Section 482, the Court does not adjudicate upon the veracity of the facts alleged or enter into an appreciation of competing evidence presented. The limited question is whether on the face of the FIR, the allegations constitute a cognizable offence. (Para 8)

A “consent” based on a “misconception of fact” is not consent in the eyes of the law. (Para 10)

Consent with respect to Section 375 of the IPC involves an active understanding of the circumstances, actions and consequences of the proposed act. (Para 12)

An individual who makes a reasoned choice to act after evaluating various alternative actions (or inaction) as well as the various possible consequences flowing from such action or inaction, consents to such action. (Para 12)

There is a distinction between a false promise given on the understanding by the maker that it will be broken, and the breach of a promise which is made in good faith but subsequently not fulfilled. (Para 14)

Where the promise to marry is false and the intention of the maker at the time of making the promise itself was not to abide by it but to deceive the woman to convince her to engage in sexual relations, there is a “misconception of fact” that vitiates the woman’s “consent”. (Para 16)

A breach of a promise cannot be said to be a false promise. To establish a false promise, the maker of the promise should have had no intention of upholding his word at the time of giving it. (Para 16)

The “consent” of a woman under Section 375 is vitiated on the ground of a “misconception of fact” where such misconception was the basis for her choosing to engage in the said act. (Para 16)

“consent” of a woman with respect to Section 375 must involve an active and reasoned deliberation towards the proposed act. (Para 18)

To establish whether the “consent” was vitiated by a “misconception of fact” arising out of a promise to marry, two propositions must be established. The promise of marriage must have been a false promise, given in bad faith and with no intention of being adhered to at the time it was given. The false promise itself must be of immediate relevance, or bear a direct nexus to the woman’s decision to engage in the sexual act. (Para 18)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_21-Aug-2019

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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