NEW DELHI – A man charged with forcibly having unnatural sex with his wife approached the Delhi high court on Monday claiming he is protected from prosecution as “marital rape” is not an offence in the country according to the current conjugal laws.

The petitioner has also sought clarity on the legal position following amendments carried out to the criminal law in 2013 to make sexual offences against women stricter. In his plea, Abdulla Khan claimed that there was legal “inconsistency” after Parliament amended Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections dealing with crimes relating to rape. He argued that though Section 377 of IPC (unnatural sex) was punishable, the 2013 special amendments protect marital sex, even if without consent, from prosecution.

Earlier, Abdulla Khan’s wife lodged a complaint against him for allegedly raping her and forcing her into unnatural sex. The Court freed him for the first offence, but not for the second.

A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal has sought the response of the Union Ministry of Law and Justice and the Delhi government on Khan’s plea, in which he challenged his trial by a Delhi court under Section 377.

Earlier, the Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi had said that the concept of marital rape could not be applied in the Indian context.  “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc.,” she said.