Supreme Court Strikes Down 158 Year Old Adultery Law


New Delhi:The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which said that adultery is a criminal offence. The five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, termed it as “archaic” and observed that it violated Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides equality before law.Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said adultery can’t be a criminal offence and the adultery law is also violative of privacy right to some extent. A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court is pronouncing its judgment on the validity of section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalises adultery, on Thursday, here is a primer on the issues at stake.

The law punished a man who has an affair with a woman “without the consent or connivance of” her husband, with five years in jail or fine or both. There was no punishment for the woman, who was seen as the victim.”The wife can’t be treated as chattel and it’s time to say that husband is not the master of woman,” said the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, adding, “there can’t be any social licence which destroys a home.The judges noted that most countries had abolished laws against adultery. Making adultery a crime is retrograde and would mean “punishing unhappy people”, said Justice Misra.

As he began reading out the verdict, the Chief Justice remarked that the beauty of the constitution is it includes “the I, me and you” and “any law which dents individual dignity and equity of women in a civilised society invites the wrath of the constitution.According to the adultery law, a man can be punished for having a sexual relationship with a married woman without the consent of her husband. The petitioners want Section 497 of the IPC to be made gender neutral. In India, adultery is a crime and the punishment for the same can be imprisonment for five years, or fine, or both.


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