- Supreme Court in its judgment has ruled that adultery is not a criminal offence.
- Background about Adultery and Section 497 of the IPC
Problems with Adultery Law
- According to Section 497 of the IPC, a man had the right to initiate criminal proceedings against his wife’s lover but there is no such right for the wife.
- Also, if the sexual relationship of the woman with her lover has the consent of the husband then it would not be considered adultery.
- Section 497 does not bring within its purview an extramarital relationship with an unmarried woman or a widow.
- Supreme Court Judgment:
- A five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra held that adultery is not a crime and struck it off the IPC.
- The court held that Section 497 violates Article 14, Article 15 and Article 21 of the constitution.
- Article 14: It ruled that Section 497 is arbitrary as it punishes only men for adultery
- Article 15: Section 497 discriminates on the ground of sex, as it treats wife as husband’s property.
- Article 21: Since Section 497 forces married couples to be loyal with each other it violates privacy.
- The court ruled that adultery could be a moral wrong but criminalizing adultery is too harsh.
- It ruled that dealing with adultery is the private matter of the couple.
- The court observed that there is no data to prove that abolition of adultery would increase infidelity or divorce rate.
- The court ruled that curtailing sexual autonomy of woman is antithetical to the constitution.
- Court also struck down Section 198(2) of the CrPC under which the husband alone could complain against adultery.
- According to SC the provision of Section 497 is a reflection of the social dominance of men prevalent 150 years ago.
- Significance of the verdict
- It will end the gender discrimination in marriage.
- It will give sexual autonomy to women.
- Now adultery can only be ground for civil issues like divorce but it will not be a crime.
- With the decriminalization of adultery India has taken another step towards rights-based social relations, instead of a state-imposed moral order.
- The verdict has brought India into the company of countries that no longer consider adultery an offence.