Exchange of garlands is not marriage: SC

The marriage solemnised with full customary rites and ceremonies alone would get the sanctity of marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the apex court bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice T.S. Thakur said.

The court made these observations in the course of the hearing of a petition by one K.P. Thimmappa Gowda challenging his conviction by the Karnataka High Court for repeatedly having sex with a lady and impregnating her on the false promise of marrying her later.
The victim subsequently gave birth to a boy in 1996.

The accused Thimmappa, who was a teacher, was acquitted of the charges by the session court but his conviction was reversed by the high court.

Both, the victim and the accused, were residents of Pallavanamashalli village in Shimoga district of Karnataka.

The court said that in the case of inter-caste marriage, the marriage may be solemnised in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either the bridegroom or the bride.

Justice Katju said that if, according to customs, the marriage ceremony involves Saptapadi, then the marriage would be considered solemnised on the completion of the seventh step.

A teacher should be a role model but the petitioner Thimmappa is a stain on the profession of teaching, Justice Katju said.

The court was appalled to note that the victim was Thimmappa's employee working on his agriculture fields. The court noted that Thimmappa exploited her poverty, repeatedly raped her and then abandoned her.

The court said that the conduct of Thimmappa in refusing to accept the decision of the village panchayat to marry the victim was far from that of a gentleman.

Subsequently, Thimmappa married another woman from whom he has two daughters.
Thimmappa's counsel offered Rs.2 lakh as alimony to the victim in return for his acquittal in the case. Justice Thakur said: “Let him save his two lakhs and spend seven years in imprisonment.”

Describing the offer as ridiculous, Justice Thakur said that “no court would accept it”.
The court adjourned the matter by four weeks during which Thimmappa would tell the court as to what amount he could offer the victim in terms of cash and agriculture land by way of settlement.

The court took note of the fact the child of the victim was already 15 years old and she was a single unwed mother.

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