Section 497 Verdict: SC rules adultery law as unconstitutional, arbitrary


The court had taken a prima facie view that though the criminal law proceeded on "gender neutrality", the concept was absent in Section 497.

However, adultery is the only provision of IPC in which men and women are treated differently, for one thing.

The Supreme Court has held that the adultery law is a relic of the past.

"I don't understand why people approach court about everything". Hon'ble Supreme Court should have thought that this decision would end up the institution of marriage.

It creates an arbitrary classification between married women and unmarried women. In today's case Justice Nariman observed that adultery violates of Article 14 of the Constitution and can not be treated as an offence. However, the court said that it can be a ground for divorce and a person will have civil remedies for it.

The Centre tried to defend the retention of the law, falling on the preservation of "sanctity of marriage". In addition, it prevented a wife from prosecuting either her husband or woman in which he was engaged in extramarital relations.

The Indian government, a coalition led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, had supported adultery remaining a criminal offense, suggesting that rather than scrapping the law, it was amended to be gender neutral, with equal punishment for both men and women. We argued that Section 198 of the Cr.P.C violated Article 14 of the Constitution of India because they fail the test of reasonable classification as they carve out arbitrary classifications in favor of the husband.

Aug 2: SC says matrimonial sanctity is an issue but the penal provision on adultery is apparently violative of the right to equality under the Constitution. Legislature has imposed a condition on sexuality of women by making adultery as offence, he said, adding that section 497 is denial of substance of equality.

In Indonesia's staunchly-Islamic Aceh province, men and women found guilty of adultery can be whipped 100 times with a thin rattan cane in public.

"Adultery can not and should not be a crime".

More than 60 countries around the world had done away with laws that made adultery a crime, according to Indian lawyer Kaleeswaram Raj. The story is different in a country like Uganda, where adulterers could be jailed. "I wish the decision had come earlier", the 35-year-old doctor from Delhi said.

Since then, the top court has rejected similar pleas, including the constitutional validity of the law, at least twice - 1985 and 1988.

A wife can not be made a slave to her husband's sexual desires.

"The society abhors marital infidelity".

"A woman after marriage does not pledge her sexual autonomy to her husband and depriving her of choice to have consensual sex with anyone outside marriage can not be curbed", Justice DY Chandrachud observed.