In a majority judgement, the Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised adultery by striking down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), terming it unconstitutional. The court observed that mere adultery cannot be a crime unless it attracts the scope of IPC's Section 306 (Abetment of suicide). However, the court said that adultery can be a ground for divorce.
The top court also observed that parameters of Fundamental Rights should include the rights of women too and individual dignity is important in a sanctified society.
A Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, comprising Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra passed the verdict.
Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra read out the judgement and stated that: "Equality is the governing principle of a system. A husband is not the master of his wife." The Apex Court said that legal subordination of one sex by another is wrong and considered views of Justice Rohinton Nariman on social progression of women in the Triple Talaq case while passing the judgement. In today's case Justice Nariman observed that adultery violates of Article 14 of the Constitution and cannot be treated as an offence.
In August this year, the top court had reserved the verdict in the case while observing, "The idea of imposition of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code is not to enforce monogamy but to ensure to protect fidelity in the marriage, which is a promise made by both the parties while entering to a marriage."
Section 497 stated that whoever has sexual intercourse with 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. The said man faces imprisonment of upto 5 years or fine or both. In such cases, the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.
The Apex Court in December last year had issued a notice to the Centre asking why a married woman who is equally liable for the offence of adultery with a married man, who is not her husband, be not punished along with the man. This came after a businessman, Joseph Shine, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for Section 497 to be struck down on grounds of being unconstitutional, unjust, illegal and arbitrary.
However, the Centre, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in July, in response to Shine's petition, said that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code was enacted to safeguard the sanctity of marriage and diluting it would be detrimental to matrimonial bond. (ANI)