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Punishing only men for adultery contradicts right to equality: SC

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New Delhi, Aug 2: The Supreme Court has 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.

Punishing only men for adultery contradicts right to equality: SC

The court is hearing a petition that sought to make both men and woman equally liable for adultery. The petitioner argued that the SC had in 1954 upheld the validity of Section 497 on the ground that Article 15 of the Constitution permitted special laws for women and children. He said in today's time it was inconceivable that a man having intercourse with another woman without her husband's consent or connivance would be prosecuted and face a jail term of up to five years, while the woman, despite being an equal partner in the crime, would go scot free.

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.

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