Supreme Court Quashes The Archaic Adultery Law

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The landmark judgment came out some time back. People have already started complaining:

What is happening to this country!

How can adultery be legal!

Poor men! Now what will they do if the wife cheats!

What will happen to our social fabric and sanctity of marriage!

I will make an attempt at clarifying this.

Section 497 read as follows:

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, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.

Yes. Read it again.  It means that if a man gets involved with a married woman without the married woman’s husband’s consent, that man can be punished. There was no punishment for the woman. Here is what was wrong with this law:

  1. Wife is the property of husband.
  2. Women have no agency and no role to play in their own “extra marital” relationship.
  3. A man seduces a woman and she is a mere victim.

Clearly this law treated men and women unequally. It was unfair to men because it made them solely responsible for a consensual relationship. It was unfair to women because it treated them as mere property without any individuality or choice of their own.

Therefore, this law has been struck down. Please note that adultery is still very much a ground for divorce.  It is not a criminal offense anymore wherein earlier it was a criminal offense only for the man who got involved with a married woman without the consent of her husband.

First 377. Then 497. Desh badal raha hai…

Some quotes from the judgment that I appreciated:

The wife can’t be treated as chattel and it’s time to say that husband is not the master of woman,”

Any law which affects individual dignity, equity of women in a civilised society invites the wrath of the Constitution.

In case of adultery, criminal law expects people to be loyal which is a command which gets into the realm of privacy

Physicality is an individual choice

Section 497 denudes women of her choice and disregards her sexual choice

Man being the seducer and women being the victim no longer exists



If I have missed anything , please let me know in the comments.


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