A five-judge Constitution Bench of the apex court struck down the decades-old provision of adultery in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which treated physical relations outside marriages as the criminal offence.
Section 497 (adultery) imparted special rights to the husband to prosecute his wife’s lover.
In cases of establishment of the act of adultery, the wife could face imprisonment up to 5 years under the old law.
The irony with the Section 497 was that the similar provision was not applied to husbands committing adultery outside marriages, and therefore the apex court pronounced that the archaic section dents the individuality of women in general, and it needs to be struck down.
The apex court also observed that adultery could be treated as a ground for the dissolution of marriage, but it cannot be treated as a criminal offense.
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Progressive section of the society has welcomed the pronouncement saying that the verdict has saved the individuality of women, and it is a verdict that matches up the mindset of the 21st century.
On the contrary, the Delhi Commission For Women Chief Swati Maliwal slammed the apex court decision saying, ‘Totally disagree with SC on adultery. They’ve given license to married couples 4 adulterous relationships. What’s sanctity of marriage then?’
‘Instead of making 497 genders neutral, criminalizing it both for women and men they have decriminalized it totally! The anti-women decision,’ she added.