In a landmark judgement on Thursday, the Supreme Court said that the adultery was no longer a crime. The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court decriminalised adultery in a unanimous judgement
“Any provision of law affecting individual dignity and equality of women invites wrath of constitution. It’s time to say that husband is not the master of wife. Legal soverignity of one sex over other sex is wrong,” Live Law website quoted Chief Justice Misra, who read from the judgment written for himself and Justice AM Khanwilkar.
Chief Justice Misra, who is retiring on 1 October, said that equalitywas the governing principle of a system adding that a husband was not the master of the wife. He said, “Parameters of fundamental rights should include rights of women. Individual dignity important in a sanctified society.System can’t treat women unequally. Women can’t be asked to think what a society desires.”
“Legal subordination of one sex by another is wrong. Social progression of women & views of Justice Nariman in Triple Talaq case considered. Adultery can be grounds for dissolution of marriage,” ANI quoted the chief justice as saying. The chief justice also said that mere adultery could not amount to a crime, unless it attracted the scope of Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the IPC.
He said that the Section 497 (Adultery) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is unconstitutional.
Justice RF Nariman, who too agreed with the chief justice, wrote in his judgement that Section 497 was an archaic provision which had lost its rationale. Justice DY Chandrachud too agreed with the other judges but chose to write his own judgement, which read, “Autonomy is intrinsic in dignified human existence.497 denuded the woman from making choices. The law in adultery is a codified rule of patriarchy. Society attributes impossible attributes to a woman, Raising woman to a pedestal is one part of such attribution,”
Reacting to the judgement, the petitioner’s lawyer, Raj Kallishwaram, told reporters that it was a monumental judgement. “I am extremely happy with the judgement. The people of India should also be happy,” he said.
The Centre had defended the adultery law on the grounds that the sanctity of marriage must be protected. The Supreme Court judges felt that in case of adultery, criminal law expected people to be loyal ‘which is a command which gets into the realm of privacy.’
The top court, however, made it clear that “without a shadow of doubt”, adultery can be grounds for divorce.
The verdict was largely welcomed but there were some, who slammed the top court for decriminalising the adultery. The National Commission for Women’s chief Rekha Sharma told ANI, “I welcome this judgement by Supreme Court. It was an outdated law which should have been removed long back. This is a law from British era. Although the British had done away with it long back, we were still stuck with it.”
Delhi Commission for Women Chief Swati Maliwal said, “Totally disagree with SC on adultery. They’ve given license to married couples 4 adulterous relationships. What’s sanctity of marriage then? Instead of making 497 gender neutral, criminalising it both for women and men they have decriminalised it totally! Anti women decision.”