National

Adultery Not A Crime, Supreme Court Strikes Down Section 497 Of Indian Penal Code

ANANYA BHATNAGAR | 0
3414
| September 27 , 2018 , 11:51 IST

The Supreme Court on Thursday declared adultery (Section 497) as unconstitutional. The bench said that mere adultery can't be a crime, unless it attracts the scope of Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.

A five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising of Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra pronounced the verdict.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra while reading the judgement on his own and Justice Khanwilkar’s behalf said, “Any provision treating woman with inequality is not Constitutional.”

The bench further observed that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code is manifestly arbitrary and it offends the dignity of women.

CJI Misra further said, “In case of adultery, criminal law expects a person to be loyal, which is a command which gets into the realm of privacy. Adultery might not be the cause of an unhappy marriage, it could be the result of an unhappy marriage.”

Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman obsereved, “Section 497 violates Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. Ancient notions of man being perpetrator and woman being victim no longer hold good.”

Justice Chandrachud observed, “Section 497 based on  treatment of women as chattel. It seeks to control the sexuality of women; it hits the autonomy and dignity of women.”

"The adultery law perpetuates the subordinate status of women, denies dignity, sexual autonomy and is based on gender stereotypes," the Court observed.

Justice Chandrachud struck down the law and observed that it violates Article 14 and 21 of the constitution.

Justice Indu Malhotra said, “Adultery could be a moral wrong towards the spouse and family, but question is whether it should be a criminal offence?

Gender Biasness

Section 497 punished a married man for having sex with wife of another man. However, the sexual act is exempted from punishment if it is performed with the consent or connivance of the husband of the other woman. Also, the provision exempts the wife from punishment, and states that wife should not be even treated as an abettor.

Ground Of Divorce & Reason Of Suicide

The Court however clarified that adultery will be a ground for divorce. It was also stated that if an act of adultery leads the aggrieved spouse to suicide, the adulterous partner could be prosecuted for abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC.

Slamming Section 198(2) Of CrPc

The judgment also struck down Section 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Section 198 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deals with prosecution for offences against marriage.

Section 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure read, “For the purposes of sub- section (1), no person other than the husband of the woman shall be deemed to be aggrieved by any offence punishable under section 497 or section 498 of the said Code: Provided that in the absence of the husband, some person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was com- mitted may, with the leave of the Court, make a complaint on his behalf.