New Delhi, Aug 2: The Supreme Court on Thursday found loop-holes in the Centre's logic of defending adultery as a criminal offence. A Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra was in disagreement with the Centre's view that the validity of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code should be upheld because it protects the sanctity of marriage.
The Bench observed that, "the government's rationale that it will protect sanctity of marriage doesn't look sound. Sanctity of marriage is gone even when a married man has sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman but that's not a crime. It is a crime only if a man has relations with a married woman and the husband of the woman complains."
Each partner in the marriage is equally responsible to keep the sanctity of marriage intact. If a married woman has sexual intercourse with a married man other than her husband, why should the man alone be punished when the woman too is an equal partner to the crime. Such distinction appears arbitrary, the Bench also said. "We will have to examine if the entire Section 497 in the IPC should go," he added.
On Wednesday, the court observed that making only men liable for adultery is not right and appears to violate the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution.
The Centre, in its affidavit, had said, "striking down of the provision would be tantamount to decriminalising the offence of adultery, thereby eroding the sanctity of marriage and the fabric of society at large."
"Section 497 of the IPC supports, safeguards and protects the institution of marriage," the Centre said and cited a 33-year-old SC judgment in the Sowmithri Vishnu case, where a three-judge bench led by then CJI Y V Chandrachud had ruled that if Section 497 was struck down, "adulterous relations will have a more free play than now".
"Decriminalisation of adultery will result in weakening the sanctity of a marital bond and will result in laxity in the marital bond, " the affidavit also stated.