Spotlight is a series where we shine the, well, spotlight on lawyers who made the news over the past week.
The most followed development from the world of courtrooms these past few weeks has been the marital rape case hearing before the Delhi High Court, during which the arguments of Senior Advocate Rebecca John gave us a deep insight into the various facets of Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
John is one of the leading lawyers in criminal law litigation in India. She enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi in 1988 and has been practising law ever since. John was designated as a Senior Advocate by the Delhi High Court in 2013, being the first woman to be conferred the gown on the criminal side.
She studied at the Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. In her career spanning over three decades, John has appeared in high-profile matters such as the Hawala Scam case of 1996, the case pertaining to the Anti-Sikh riots of 1984, the Hashimpura Massacre of 1986, the Delhi Diwali blast case of 2005, the Ishrat Jahan encounter case and the Aarushi Talwar murder case. John has also represented a death penalty convict in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case.
Most recently, she appeared for journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case filed by former Union Minister MJ Akbar in a Delhi court. The case against Ramani, who made allegations of sexual harassment against the journalist, was dismissed.
John, with her legal acumen in laws pertaining to gender-based violence, has been assisting a Delhi High Court Division Bench as an Amicus Curiae in petitions demanding the criminalisation of marital rape.
Her submissions gave an insight into the intricacies of the laws dealing with offences against women in the country. On one occasion, she distinguished the rape law and the alternate legal remedies for women under different penal provisions, arguing that those were crime-specific and rape was outside their purview.
John elucidated on the plausible outcomes of the criminalisation of marital rape. She explained if the exception in rape law was struck down, then Section 376B of the IPC and Section 198B of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) would also have to go.
While Section 376B deals with punishment for sexual intercourse by a husband on his wife during separation, 198B is a procedural provision stipulating that no court shall take cognisance of an offence under 376B except upon a prima facie satisfaction of the facts.
John earlier underlined that a woman’s consent was essential to the immunity provided to husbands through the exception in the rape law.
"There can be expectation from both sides. But the expectation cannot then result in forceful sexual relations," she argued in one of the hearings.
Earlier this week, John said she received a lot of hate over the last few days for her stand on the issue of marital rape, and continued to assist the Court.