New Delhi: A man cannot be prosecuted for rape if he has sexual relationship with a woman with the intention to marry her but the wedlock could not take place due to some circumstances, the Supreme Court said on Monday.

A bench of justices BS Chauhan and Dipak Misra said that a person cannot be accused of rape if the girl agrees to have sexual intercourse with him on account of her love and passion and he did not have any mala fide intention.

"The court must examine whether there was made, at an early stage, a false promise of marriage by the accused and whether the consent involved was given after wholly understanding the nature and consequences of sexual indulgence," the bench said.
    
It said that there is distinction between rape and consensual sex and "an accused can be convicted for rape only if the court reaches a conclusion that the intention of the accused was mala fide, and that he had clandestine motives".

The Apex Court set aside a Punjab and Haryana High Court order which had upheld a trial court verdict sentencing a man to a seven-year jail term for rape. It delivered the judgement after finding that he intended to marry his 19-year-old girlfriend and there was no evidence that his promise of marriage was false.

"The failure to keep a promise made with respect to a future uncertain date, due to reasons that are not very clear from the evidence available, does not always amount to misconception of fact," the bench said.

(Agencies)

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