Supreme Court strikes down adultery as an offence: Highlights

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adultery

The Supreme Court on Thursday declared as unconstitutional the penal provision on adultery, saying it was manifestly arbitrary and dents the individuality of women.

The court declared that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code — the adultery law — was unconstitutional. The section reads: “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.”

Adultery is no longer a crime, but it will continue to be grounds for divorce.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra said adultery may not be the cause of an unhappy marriage, but the result of one.

FACTBOX: THE JUDGMENT IN TEN POINTS

  • Five judges, including Chief Justice Dipak Misra, unanimously strike down Section 497
  • Equality the governing parameter of the Constitution: Misra
  • It’s time to say the husband is not the master of the woman: Misra
  • Section 497 manifestly arbitrary the way it deals with women: Misra
  • IPC Section 497 and CrPC Section 198 unconstitutional: Misra and AM Khanwilkar
  • Adultery can be grounds for divorce, but not a criminal offence: Misra
  • A woman loses her voice, autonomy after entering marriage: DY Chandrachud
  • Autonomy intrinsic in dignified human existence: Chandrachud
  • Manifest arbitrariness is writ large in Section 497: Chandrachud
  • No justification for the continuation of Section 497: Indu Malhotra
  • Section 497 a clear violation of fundamental rights granted in Constitution: Malhotra
  • Justice DY Chandrachud said Section 497 destroyed women’s dignity and self-respect as it treated them as their husbands’ chattel, and offended their sexual freedom.

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.

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