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:
Well done CJI Deepak Misra.
Deriminalised homosexuality. Decriminalised #Adultery.
Finally, you have made it clear that the “Penal” in the Indian Penal Code has nothing to do with any male organs.
— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) September 27, 2018
— Samir Abbas (@TheSamirAbbas) September 27, 2018
#Adultery This is 2018. We need the Supreme Court to rule adultery is not a criminal offence.
Seems the judiciary is the only surviving pillar of rationality.
— Sushma R Doshi (@SRasikDoshi) September 27, 2018
Justice Chandrachud delivering a truly fantastic, progressive judgement. #Adultery S. 497 IPC and S. 198 CrPC struck down. Seriously, this judgement by Chandrachud, J will be an education for many. Brilliant!
— Nikhil Mehra (@TweetinderKaul) September 27, 2018
#Adultery was perhaps first explored in a daring way in Silsila, the movie released when i was 1 – with @SrBachchan singing khaye gori ka yaar, balam tarse, rang barse. It has taken India that long to get rid of this regressive law!
— Aman Sharma (@AmanKayamHai_ET) September 27, 2018
Half the men on Twitter just heaved a sigh of relief. #Adultery
— Songbird (@oxymoronic_me) September 27, 2018