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Adultery is no longer a crime, as Supreme Court scraps Section 497

Team SoOLEGAL 27 Sep 2018 1:00pm

Adultery is no longer a crime, as Supreme Court scraps Section 497

The Supreme Court today scrapped Section 497 (Adultery) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which punished a married man for having a sexual relationship with a married woman without the “connivance” or “consent” of her husband.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra called the adultery law archaic and said that: “Adultery can be the ground for civil issues, including dissolution of marriage but it cannot be a criminal offence.”

The SC Bench, which also had Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, while pronouncing the verdict on the PIL which had sought to make Section 497 gender neutral made the following key observations:

  1. The CJI said section 497 of the IPC is ‘arbitrary’ the way it deals with women and any system treating a woman with indignity invites the wrath of the Constitution.
  2. Adultery law is archaic and violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution,” Justice R F Nariman said concurring with the judgment of CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Khanwilkar.
  3. The Bench said, if the adultery law is treated as an offence it would amount to punish those unhappy in marital relation.
  4. CJI Misra and Justice Khanwilkar said mere adultery cannot be an offence, however, in case any aggrieved spouse commits suicide owing to life partner’s adulterous relation, then if evidence produced, it could be treated as an ‘abetment to suicide’.
  5. Justice D Y Chandrachud called adultery as a relic of the past and said section 497 deprives woman of dignity and self respect, as it treats woman as a property of her husband.
  6. Justice D Y Chandrachud said Section 497 denudes women of her choice and disregards her sexual choice and hence it is unconstitutional.
  7. Justice Chandrachud added that a woman after marriage does not pledge her sexual autonomy to her husband and depriving her of choice to have consensual sex with anyone outside marriage cannot be curbed.
Tagged: Adultery Law   Section 497 of the IPC   Indian Penal Code   Justice D Y. Chandrachud   Justice Indu Malhotra   Justice Rohinton Nariman   Supreme Court  
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