New Delhi, Aug 8: The Centre has once again reiterated that adultery must continue as a penal offence as it is a threat to the sanctity of marriage. It also said removing the provision that holds men guilty of adultery and not women will wreck havoc in the institution of marriage. The court has reserved orders on the matter.
Responding to a petition which seeks to strike down Section 497 or make both men and women liable for the offence of adultery, the Centre said, " striking down of the provision would tantamount to decriminalising the offence of adultery, thereby eroding the sanctity of marriage and the fabric of society at large."
The Centre says that Section 497 was enacted to safeguard the sanctity of a marriage and diluting it would be detrimental to matrimonial bond.
The court however asked why the burden of maintaining the sanctity of a marriage always rests on the woman and not the husband. What is the sanctity of the marriage if the consent of a husband is taken, the court also asked.
The centre said that we in India must evolve our laws according to societal developments and not go by what happens in western countries or other societies. The idea of Section 497 is not to enforce monogamy but protect fidelity in marriage, which is part of the promise made by parties to a marriage.
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.
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.