“Adultery Is Not A Crime In India Anymore”, Declares The Supreme Court

Today, the Supreme Court's judgement decriminalised adultery. The Indian judiciary takes another step in recognising women's equality and removing personal conflicts from the scope of the law.  

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Today, the Supreme Court’s judgement decriminalised adultery. The Indian judiciary takes another step in recognising women’s equality and removing personal conflicts from the scope of the law.  

The Supreme Court in yet another landmark judgement has declared that adultery is not a crime anymore. It can be a strong grounds for divorce but not a criminal offence. Also, the court ruled that the previous adultery law was anti-women and archaic. No one sex can ever have legal sovereignty or ownership over the other. Hence scrapping of the 150 year old Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code was important for the protection of rights and equality of women.

Against the petition for decriminalising adultery, the center had argued that keeping the adultery law intact was necessary for ‘safeguarding the sanctity of a marriage’. According to them adultery is a public wrong that would be injurious to spouse and children both mentally and physically.

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.” In effect, it made adultery a crime because the wife ‘belonged’ to her husband. 

A bench of five-judges including justice RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra, DY Chandrachud and headed by Dipak Misra is of the opinion that any law that affects individual dignity, and equality of women in a civilised society needs to invite the wrath of the constitution. Any law treating women as unequal cannot be constitutional. No woman is the ‘property’ of her husband. She has an identity and mind of her own.     

So, the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, in today’s judgement has declared that the existing adultery law is arbitrary as it’s an intentional action on the part of both man and woman in spite of being aware of all the possible consequences. Hence it cannot be considered a crime.   

Three times before this judgement, the apex court had given the judgement in favour of the adultery law. But they have now proved that time has come to realise that women are equal to man in all respects – this means any one who feels wronged by adultery can ask for a divorce, but you cannot prosecute your wife or ‘the other man’ as a criminal!  

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Madhura Chandana

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