Adultery not a crime, law is unconstitutional: Supreme Court

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New Delhi: In a landmark judgement today, the Supreme Court scrapped the 150-year old adultery law as unconstitutional. Reading out the judgement, CJI Dipak Misra clearly stated that equality is the need of the hour. He also added that time has come when the husband should not be considered the master.

The apex court’s five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the beauty of the Constitution is that it includes “the I, me and you”.

The apex court is dealing with section 497 of the Indian Penal Code says: “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery.”

The CJI, which wrote the judgement for himself and Justice A M Khanwilkar, said that equality is the governing parameter of the Constitution.

The court said any provision treating women with inequality is not constitutional and it’s time to say that husband is not the master of woman. The CJI said section 497 of the IPC is manifestly arbitrary the way it deals with women. The bench said adultery can be treated as civil wrong for dissolution of marriage.

There can’t be any social licence which destroys a home, the CJI said, adding that adultery should not be a criminal offence. The court said adultery can be a ground for civil wrong, a ground for divorce but not criminal offence. Presently, the offence of adultery entails a maximum punishment of five years, or with fine, or both.

Here are some takeaways from today’s Judgment on adultery:

  • CJI Dipak Misra while delivering judgement said beauty of the Constitution is that it includes “the I, me and you”.
  • Unequal treatment of women invites wrath of Constitution.
  • Equality is governing parameter of the Constitution.
  • Any provision treating women with inequality is not constitutional, said CJI
  • CJI says it’s time to say husband is not the master of woman.
  • Adultery can be treated as civil wrong for dissolution of marriage.
  • There can’t be any social licence which destroys a home, said CJI
  • Section 497 of the IPC is manifestly arbitrary the way it deals with women, said CJI.
  • Adultery should not be a criminal offence, said CJI.
  • CJI during reading out the judgement said, adultery can be a ground for civil wrong, a ground for divorce but not criminal offence.
  • Adultery is not a crime in countries like China, Japan and Australia, said CJI.
  • Adultery dents individuality of women, said CJI.
  • Adultery might not be cause of unhappy marriage, it could be result of an unhappy marriage, said CJI.
  • Justice R F Nariman terms Section 497 dealing with adultery as archaic law.
  • Law deprives married women the agency of consent, said Justice D Y Chandrachud.
  • A woman loses her voice, autonomy after entering marriage and manifest arbitrariness is writ large in Section 497, said Justice Chandrachud.
  • Autonomy is intrinsic in dignified human existence and Section 497 denudes women from making choices, said Justice Chandrachud.
  • Legislature has imposed a condition on sexuality of women by making adultery as offence, said Justice Chandrachud
  • Section 497 is denial of substance of equality, said Justice Chandrachud.
  • Section 497 is held to be unconstitutional as adultery is manifestly arbitrary, said Justice Chandrachud.
  • Justice Indu Malhotra said Section 497 is clear violation of fundamental rights granted in Constitution.
  • No justification for continuation of Section 497 of IPC, said Justice Malhotra.
  • Section 497 offends sexual freedom of women, said Justice Chandrachud.
  • Section 497 destructive of women’s dignity, self-respect as it treats women as chattel of husband, said Justice Chandrachud.

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