'Husband Not Master Of Wife', Says SC As It Strikes Down 158-Year-Old Adultery Law

The bench also said that adultery can be a ground for divorce but cannot be a criminal offence.

The Supreme Court Of India has struck down Section 497, the adultery law, that provided for the prosecution of a man for having an extra-marital affair while the women was out of the purview of the law because it treated them as the ‘property’ of their husband.

“If Act is treated as an offence it would amount to punish those unhappy in marital relationship. Thinking of adultery from a point of view of criminality is a retrograde step. Declare 497 as unconstitutional. Section gives a license to the husband to use the woman as a chattel,” said the five judge bench led by CJI Deepak Mishra underlining that the 158-year-law violates right to equality. The bench also said that adultery can be a ground for divorce but cannot be a criminal offence.

While pronouncing the verdict, the venerable judges made some strong observations

Women not living in shadows of men

Terming the adultery law arbitrary, Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the bench said, “…. The time when wives lived in the shadows of husband has gone. There is no justification for continuance of the section framed in 1860 to remain on statute.”

Women’s sexual preferences cannot be curbed

While Justice Chandrachud called Section 497 destructive to women’s dignity and added that her sexual preferences could not be curbed. Saying, “woman after marriage does not pledge her sexual autonomy to her husband and depriving her of choice to have consensual sex with any one outside marriage cannot be curbed.”

Husband not the master of a woman

While reading out the judgement, CJI Mishra said, “Women can’t be asked to stay as man or society asks.. It’s time to say husband is not master of a woman.”

The centre had defended the law saying adultery must remain a crime so that the sanctity of marriage can be protected.

Twitter was elated over the Supreme Court verdict hailing the top court for its progressive stand: