Adultery verdict: Relief for some 'wronged' husbands, more harassment for others

28 September, 2018, 00:25 | Author: Carlos George
  • India's Supreme Court rules adultery not a crime any more

Along with section 497 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, Supreme Court has struck down section 198 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which allowed the husband to bring charges against the man with whom his wife has committed adultery.

A petitioner, an Indian businessman, had challenged the court to strike down the law, describing it as arbitrary and discriminatory against women. A five-judge bench comprising of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice RF Nariman, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice AM Khanwilkar pronounced the verdict.

The Legislature has imposed a condition on sexuality of women by making adultery as offence, he said. "Every judgement of the SC has to be welcomed because it becomes the law which we all have to subscribe to", he said. The woman was exempted from punishment. Quoting from the Supreme Court judgment, the home ministry said, It is better, from the point of view of the interests of the society, that at least a limited class of adulterous relationship is punishable by law.

Adultery will, however, be considered valid grounds for divorce.

Women could not file a complaint under the archaic law nor be held liable for adultery themselves, making it exclusively the realm of men.

But women's rights campaigners welcomed the ruling on Thursday.

Shine had questioned the immunity accorded to women if they commit the offence of adultery.

Husband is not the master of woman.

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Adultery will remain grounds for divorce, and adulterers can be criminally charged with abetting suicide, in cases where extramarital affairs lead to suicide, judges said.

By exonerating wives of adultery if done with the consent of their husbands, it discriminates against women, and amounts to "institutionalized discrimination", the petition said.

Misra is stepping down as chief justice next week when he turns 65, the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges. Needless to add, the heteronormative nature of the Section 497 was a gaping loophole willfully exploited by married and unfaithful men to the detriment of their wives.

Kumar Jahagirdar, another activist fighting for the rights of the men, said domestic violence should be made gender neutral and there should be counselling before marriages to check compatibility between couples. If the defendant is found guilty, he could be thrown in jail for up to five years, face a fine, or both.

It has been said that in order to prove adultery, two elements would be necessary- the intention to be adulterous and the opportunity to gratify such an intention.

"Treating adultery an offence, we are disposed to think, would tantamount to the State entering into a real private realm".

"The institution of marriage must be protected". So, while Aadhaar-PAN linking is mandatory, banks and telecom companies can not ask ask people to link their bank accounts and mobile numbers with Aadhaar. "Stability of marriages is not an ideal to be scorned".

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