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16 things the Supreme Court said while striking down adultery as an offence


New Delhi, Sep 27: In a landmark verdict the Supreme Court has struck down adultery as an offence under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code. The section prescribed punishment only for a married man who had consensual sex with a married woman without the connivance or consent of her husband.

As a result of this verdict, adultery would not be an offence any longer. The court however said that it could be a ground for divorce.

16 things the Supreme Court said while striking down adultery as an offence

Key observations:

Adultery not a criminal offence under Section 497

It is absolutely, manifestly and arbitrary.

It affects the subordination of a woman and affects right to life.

Adultery can be a ground for divorce, but not a criminal offence. It can be seen as a civil remedy and a ground for dissolution of marriage.

Mere adultery cannot be a crime. However if any aggrieved spouse commits suicide because of life partner's adulterous relation and if evidence is produced, it could be treated as abetment to suicide.

Husband is not the master of the woman.

Any law that affects the individual dignity, equity of a woman in a civilised society invites the wrath of the Constitution.

Also Read | Adultery not a crime, but ground for divorce says Supreme Court

A dignity of a woman cannot be treated as an annexe to a building. The dignity of a woman is an ancient concept/

Section 497 is archaic provision

Adultery is a chauvinistic notion and treats women as chattel.

It is a paternalistic notion that violates Articles 14 and 15 (1) of the Constitution.

Adultery is an offence as relic of past and added that Section 497 is destructive of woman's dignity and self respect as it treats woman as a chattel of the husband.

In the most private zone choice is important and sexuality cannot be dissected from desire.

Section 497 deprives women their choice about sexuality and hence it is unconstitutional.

Also Read | Married woman doesn't pledge sexual autonomy to her husband: SC

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 cannot be curbed.

Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the Bench also termed Section 497 as unconstitutional. She however said that adultery is a moral wrong.

What does Section 497 state:

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, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.

Also Read | Husband is not the master of the woman: Supreme Court

The Centre in its affidavit however did not deal with the contentious issue of making both men and women equally liable for the crime of adultery. The issue of equal liability is under consideration by the Law Commission of India. We will await the final report of the commission, the Centre also said.

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