In an observation that would mightily cheer liberals, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday that live-in relationships and pre-marital sex could not be considered offences.
"When two adult people want to live together what is the offence?” asked a three judge bench comprising of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, and Justices Deepak Verma and B.S. Chauhan. “Living together is not an offence. It cannot be an offence."
The court pointed out that even Lord Krishna and Radha had lived together according to mythology.
The judges made the observations while reserving judgment on a special leave petiton filed by Tamil actress Khushboo seeking to quash 22 criminal cases filed against her in Tamil Nadu for allegedly endorsing pre-maritial sex in interviews to various magazines in 2005.
Khushboo was present during the entire hearing and was seated in the first row, dressed immaculately in an orange salwar with a green dupatta wrapped casually and her goggles fixed on her forehead.
The judges asked a battery of lawyers appearing for the complainants what was the offence the actress committed while expressing such views.
The lawyers argued that her comments would mislead young people and lead to decay in moral values. They said that if prominent people make such statements, it would create chaos in society.
“People of Tamil Nadu were worshipping her as Goddess but this is what they got out of her worship," said a lawyer, but the court was not impressed.
"Please tell us what is the offence and under which section,” said the court. “Living together is a right to life.”
The judges also pointed out that views expressed by Khushboo were personal and did not concern others. In a democratic country, people had the right to express views, they said.
"How does it concern you?” they asked. “We are not bothered. At the most it is a personal view. How is it an offence? Under which provision of the law?"
“You have to establish a cognizable offence,” said the judges. “That this may have affected the public morality that is your view but we are only concerned with the law.”
The apex court further asked the complainants to produce evidence to show if any young girls had eloped after the actress gave the interview.
"How many homes have been affected?” the judges asked, and enquired whether the complainants had daughters. When the lawyers replied in the negative, they shot back, "Then how are you adversely affected?"
Meanwhile, Khushboo’s lawyer, Ms Pinkey Anand, alleged that her client had been targeted for political reasons. Even her clarification on the issue was not published in proper perspective by the media, said the counsel.
" She had not made any reference about Tamil Nadu women but this part was not published," Ms Anand said.
The lawyer added that there was nothing wrong in Khushboo’s statement. "Indian society should be liberated from the thinking that a women should be a virgin (at the time of marriage)," she argued.
Khusboo had approached the apex court after the Madras High Court in 2008 dismissed her plea for quashing the criminal cases.(DC)