KRISHNADAS RAJAGOPAL IN THE INDIAN EXPRESS MARCH 24, 2010
The Supreme Court threw its weight behind live-in relationships on Tuesday, observing that for a man and a woman in love, to live together is part of the right to life, and not a “criminal offence”.“If two people, man and woman, want to live together, who can oppose them? What is the offence they commit here? This happens because of the cultural exchange between people,” a special three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) K G Balakrishnan and Justices Deepak Verma and B S Chauhan observed.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions filed by actress Khusboo to quash 22 FIRs filed against her by Tamil activist groups and forums for her alleged comments on pre-marital sex in interviews five years ago.“If living together is an offence, then the first complaint should be filed against the Supreme Court, because we have permitted living together,” the court said. It was referring to a 2006 judgment in which the Supreme Court directed the administration and police across the country to protect runaway couples from harassment, and to initiate action against those resorting to violence.
“It is part of right to life to go away with someone you love,” the bench said. The Supreme Court had earlier stayed a Madras High Court order of April 2008, which allowed criminal proceedings against the actress.Khusboo was alleged to have said there was nothing wrong in “sex before marriage”, provided girls were careful about pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases. Her detractors argued that the implied advice to the educated male to not expect virginity from modern girls was “offensive” and a source of “public nuisance”.
To an argument that Khusboo’s comments on pre-marital sex would mislead gullible youths and minors, the court said: “The scenario is highly unlikely in this age of the Internet where we do not know what our children are doing or where they are going or what pornography site they are watching.”To this, the lawyer appearing for one of the complainants, Miniammal, a lawyer in Tamil Nadu, responded that “there should be some morality in the comments made by people of prominence like Khusboo, who has a temple in Tamil Nadu where she is worshipped as a goddess”.
“And this is how you revere your goddess, by dragging her to court?” retorted Justice Verma.The bench made it clear that Khusboo’s comments could at best be termed as “personal opinions”, and did not amount to a cognizable offence.But the lawyer persisted that Khusboo’s comments on pre-marital sex would lead to the “spoiling of the entire institution of marriage. Statements like this can result in chaos in the society.” Even as the CJI at this moment responded that people were better off listening to themselves than to others, Justice Verma asked the counsel to point out how many marriages were “spoilt” or how many instances of chaos happened in the past five years because of her comments on pre-marital sex.
The court said it cannot stop anyone from expressing their opinions before reserving the petitions for final verdict.Besides, the court said, Khusboo (who was present during the day-long hearing) had said “nothing new” about the concept of living together.Justice Chauhan pointed out that even the “ceiling limit” for the construction of temples for twin deities like Radha and Krishna or Ram and Sita were calculated under the consideration that they were “husband and wife”.