SC To Pronounce Judgment On Petitions Seeking Decriminalisation Of Adultery Tomorrow

Adultery no longer a crime Supreme Court

"We welcome the judgement by the SC striking down the 158yr old law based on Victorian values, in Sec 497 of Penal code, which treats women as property of husbands & criminalises adultery".

The court's ruling was welcomed by women's rights activists and lawyers who argued that the law treated women as victims and denied them agency.

"Thinking of adultery from a point of view of criminality is a retrograde step", the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court said in what was a unanimous decision.

Reacting to the judgement, National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson, rekha Sharma said, "I welcome this judgement by Supreme Court".

The Supreme Court has emerged as the supreme crusader of modernity and sensibility where sexual relationships among adults are concerned. Women can be punished for adultery in Somalia, where Islamist al-Shabab militants would usually stone them.

The top court, however, made it clear that "without a shadow of doubt", adultery can be grounds for divorce.

Petitioner Shine, an Indian citizen working in Italy, filed a plea on the grounds that Section 497 discriminates against men and violates their fundamental rights.

Essentially, this meant that provided the husband's okay with it, a woman can be subjected to someone else's desire regardless of her own consent.

Prior to the verdict, the offence entailed a maximum punishment of five years, or fine, or both.

However, his son Thursday said the decision in Sowmithri Vishnu case dealt with "constitutional challenge by approaching the discourse on the denial of equality in formal, and rather narrow terms".

The subtext here, of course, is preserving the "unique structure" of patriarchy and the Indian culture of hypocrisy over women's rights, love, sex and morality.

The legislature has imposed a condition on the sexuality of women by making adultery as an offence, he said, adding that section 497 is a denial of the substance of equality.

Under the concept of Lian in the Islamic laws, when a man accuses a woman of adultery, the wife can bring a claim for dissolution of marriage.

"The institution of marriage must be protected".

Couples can not use adultery as a ground for divorce if they lived together as a couple for six months after the infidelity was known about.

Stability of marriages is not an ideal to be scorned.

A married woman had approached the court, demanding the right to file a complaint of adultery against her husband's unmarried lover. "Therefore there is no good reason for not meting out similar treatment to the wife who has sexual intercourse with a married man", the 2003 panel, led by a judge, said.

However, doubting the object of Section 497 to safeguard the sanctity of marriage, Chandrachud had said: "Fidelity does not apply to a married man if he engages in extra-marital sex with a single woman?"

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