A Judge in India issued a ruling this week that has shocked the nation and led to a tsunami of controversial commentary from India’s media. The gist of Justice Karnan’s Reasons is that if a couple have sex they should consider themselves married. In his own words:
“This Court is of the view that if a woman aged 18 or above has a sexual relationship with a man, aged 21 or above, and during the course of such relationship, if the woman becomes pregnant, she would henceforth be treated as the ‘wife’ and the man would be treated as the ‘husband’. Even if the girl does not become pregnant after having such sexual relationship with a man but if there is strong documentary evidence to show the existence of such relationship then also the couple involved in such acts would be terms as “wife” and “husband”…
“Consequently, any couple who choose to consummate their sexual cravings then that act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow except on certain exceptional considerations… if any couple, subject to their attaining the mandatory age of freedom, who indulge in sexual gratification, then that would be considered as valid marriage and they could be termed as “husband and wife”, as a result of their choice of freedom.”
Editorials have been mixed, reflecting a wide range of opinion on the Court’s pronouncement. Some take the view that Justice Karnan has unnecessarily introduced his personal moral worldview, which is akin to the sentiments of “pompous priests, mullahs and pandits in dealing with purely personal choices that individuals make”.
Others say the Judge’s commentary is irrelevant because the case before him fell easily into the accepted law that where a couple live together and have a child, the non-custodial parent must pay child support, despite their unmarried status.
Recognizing the angry debate that followed his judgment Judge Karnan made a statement several days after his ruling, stating that the law provides for criminal proceedings against a man for cheating and deserting a woman after have sexual relations and promising marriage, but there was no provision for a civil remedy such as the child support sought by the woman in the case he ruled on.
He also said that the decision is protection for women and is in accordance with the religious values of the country.
An interesting aside is that several years ago, Justice Karnan alleged that because he was from a lower caste than his brother judges, he suffered abuse and discrimination from them. In a news story from 2011 the following was reported:
“Justice C S Karnan of the Madras High Court, who alleged humiliation by fellow judges on November 2 (first reported in TOI), on Thursday said other dalit judges, too, are targeted and their reputation tarnished whenever they assert their self-respect. He added that “more than four or five high court judges” have humiliated him on the basis of his caste and that the National Commission for Scheduled Castes may look into his complaint.”
“Dalit” is the caste of people previously called “untouchables” The word means “suppressed or crushed”.
It appears that Justice Karnan is a courageous man who is willing to speak out for what he believes is right. It will be up to the Indian Court of Appeal to assess the correctness of his ruling.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang