- Shonottra Kumar, is a legal researcher, has given his opinion on Supreme Court decision to decriminalize adultery under Section 497.
- A five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India held that adultery is not a crime and struck it off the IPC.
- Until few days ago, India was one of the few countries in the world that still considered adultery an offence.
- Main argument for considering adultery a criminal offence in India for long:
- Moral wrong and Crime Against the Society – Violation was seen as a crime against the institution of marriage, thus justifying it to be a breach of security and well-being of society.
- Benefit to Women – When bigamy was prevalent, adultery law was provided in consonance with Article 15(3) of the Constitution that allowed the state to make laws for the benefit of women and children.
- However, the above argument was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
- Supreme Court observation before giving the verdict:
- Right of Women – Only husband was considered to be the victim of adultery and could file a case. The same recourse was, however, not available to the wife.
- Deprivation of autonomy – Violation of women right to privacy and to live with dignity is a violation of their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Violation of Right to equality –The adultery provision also violated the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14, in which women were treated as a property of husband.
- Denial of Liberty – Marriage in a constitutional regime is founded on the equality of and between spouses. Each of them is entitled to the same liberty which Part III of the Constitution guarantees.
Author says, struggle for equality in many other spheres still continues, the decision to scrap this archaic law is definitely a step in the right direction.