Adultery is now legal in India

India's Supreme Court ruled adultery is not a crime but is still valid grounds for divorce

India's Supreme Court ruled adultery is not a crime but is still valid grounds for divorce

In a country beset with rising divorce rates and cases of marital infidelity, the decriminalization of adultery will critically endanger the institution of marriage.

In the second such landmark ruling this month, India's Supreme Court decriminalized the 158-year-old adultery offence as it treats the "husband like the master" of a woman, "offending" her dignity.

Prior to the verdict, the offence entailed a maximum punishment of five years, or fine, or both.

Over the last 10 years, he lost custody of his child, was sacked from two jobs and suffered huge mental trauma after his wife registered a case against him on charges of adultery.

In 2011, the top court, hearing another plea, said the law was facing criticism for "showing a strong gender bias, it makes the position of a married woman nearly as a property of her husband".

Activists had cried foul, saying the law treated women as property with no agency of their own to speak of. In this backdrop, the petition - filed last August by a man named Joseph Shine - prompted the court to revisit whether the Section was liable to be struck down for being violative of gender equality, according to legal website BarandBench. Misra said that while adultery could certainly be an issue in civil cases like divorce, "it cannot be a criminal offense".

Adultery is prohibited in Sharia or Islamic Law, so it is a criminal offence in Islamic countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan Pakistan, Bangladesh and Somalia. The CJI said unequal treatment of women invites the wrath of the Constitution.

"The judgement brings me relief but what about the years of harassment and trauma that I went through", he said.

Reacting to the judgement, the petitioner's lawyer, Raj Kallishwaram, told reporters that it was a monumental judgement.

Justice Chandrachud said Section 497 destroys and deprives women of dignity.

"I welcome this judgment by the supreme court", said Rekha Sharma, the head of India's National Commission for Women.

Dev's party colleague Priyanka Chaturvedi lauded the verdict, saying there are some laws that need to be changed, modified or removed with time. "Although the British had done away with it long back, we were still stuck with it".

The apex court pronounced four sets of concurring judgements to declare penal provision on Adultery and section 198 of CrPC dealing with prosecution of offences against marriage as unconstitutional.

Under the adultery law, only the husband of the woman had the right to file case against the man with whom she commits adultery, but this law won't prevail now. "Section 497 IPC which deals with Adultery is absolutely manifestly arbitrary".

With the supreme court striking the section 497 of the IPC, the announcement has been receiving a mixed reaction.

Sep 27: SC holds Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional and strikes down the penal provision.

Recommended News

We are pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper.
Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.