Adultery is no longer a crime in India even though,” without a shadow of doubt”, it can be grounds for divorce, the Supreme Court said today, scrapping a 158 year law that punished a man for an affair but not the women, treating her as “property”.
The Supreme Court today unanimously struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code that makes adultery a punishable offence for men. In four separate but concurring judgments, the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court said the 158-year-old law was unconstitutional and fell foul of Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) and Article 14 (Right to equality).
The apex court also declared Section 198(1) and 198(2) of the CrPC, which allows a husband to bring charges against the man with whom his wife committed adultery, unconstitutional. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, who pronounced the judgment in concurrence with Justice AM Khanwilkar, said while adultery could be a ground for civil issues, including dissolution of marriage, it could not be a criminal offence.
A man having sexual intercourse with a married woman is not a crime said CJ Deepak Mishra, calling the Victorian adultery law arbitrary.
The five member constitution bench said making adultery a crime is retrograde and would mean “punishing unhappy people”.