Observing that there was prima facie (on the face of it) sufficient material, the Bombay High Court has refused to discharge a former corporator from Panvel, Siddharth Banthia, from an alleged rape and cheating case filed against him by a Marathi actor.
Banthia has sought discharge from the case stating that the marriage to the actor and anniversary celebration were “merely props” as the actor had “induced him to perform the role of ‘husband’ for a programme to be aired”.
Justice NJ Jamadar dismissed his plea on Tuesday observing: “There are sufficient grounds to proceed against the petitioner, even for the offence punishable under section 376 (rape) of the Penal Code. The trial thus must proceed to its logical conclusion. Resultantly, the petition deserves to be dismissed.”
The HC was hearing a petition filed by Banthia challenging the September 2021 order of the sessions court rejecting his discharge plea.
According to the complaint filed by the actor, she met Banthia in 2008 and they got married in July 2010.
However, a woman informed her in September 2010 that she was Banthia’s legal wife and they had two children. When the actor confronted Banthia, he showed her forged and fabricated divorce papers. It was only in 2013 that she learnt that the divorce papers were fabricated. Hence she lodged an FIR against Banthia in Pune for rape and cheating.
Banthia’s advocate, Viresh Purwant, sought discharge stating that Banthia had “categorically asserted” that the marriage ceremony and anniversary celebration were merely props. He contended that Banthia was fond of film and TV industry and hence he “performed those roles”. In fact, Banthia and the actor were never married and never cohabited as husband and wife, he argued.
Aishwarya Kantawala, the advocate for the actor, opposed the discharge plea contending that Banthia, being a married man, made the actor to believe that he was the man she was married to and got her consent. Thus, this cannot be considered as a consensual relationship.
The court noted in its order that the actor had showed sufficient material to show that she and Banthia were married.
The court accepted Kantawala’s arguments that the actor was made to believe that she was legally wedded to Banthia and that consent (for physical relation) was given under a mistaken belief.
In its 21-page order, justice Jamadar said that prima facie case was made out against Banthia observing, “There is knowledge on the part of the man (Banthia) about he being not the husband of the prosecutrix (actor) and the consent is on account of such mistaken belief that he is her husband and a belief on the part of the prosecutrix that she is the wife of the man.”