You are currently viewing Section 497 IPC is unconstitutional Adultery is not a crime

Section 497 IPC is unconstitutional Adultery is not a crime

Section 497 IPC is unconstitutional Adultery is not a crime

Joseph Shine versus Union Of India on 27 September 2018: Supreme Court

Adultery is no longer a crime, the Supreme Court ruled today. The judgment by a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra has overturned the previous rulings of the Supreme Court on the matter.

Under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) Adultery was an offence and a convict could be sentenced to five-year-jail term. Section 497 IPC defined adultery as an offence committed by a man against a married man if the former engaged in sexual intercourse with the latter’s wife.

The law had come under sharp criticism for treating women as possession of men. An Italy-based Indian businessman Joseph Shine from Kerala, filed a Public Interest Litigation challenging IPC Section 497 contended that the law is discriminatory.

Section 497 reads: “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be 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 adultery laws allowed the aggrieved husband of the married woman in adulterous relationship to file a complaint. But the same right was not available to an aggrieved wife if her husband was found to be in an adulterous relationship.

The Law Commission of India Report of 1971 (42nd report) and the Malimath Committee on Criminal Law Reforms of 2003 recommended amendment to the adultery law. Both argued to make Section 497 of the IPC gender neutral.

It was observed that women could not be treated as commodity by leaving them to the discretion of their husbands in giving consent in matters of adultery. The Supreme Court said in August this year that Section 497 as anti-women to dismiss the argument that the adultery law discriminated against men.

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