At present, one of the most prominent and controversial points of discussion in the Supreme Court of India is the Adultery Law in India under the Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code. According to the Section 497 of the IPC, if a man has sexual intercourse with a married woman without the consent of her husband, such an act would not amount to rape but adultery. This implies that if a man has intercourse with a married woman without the consent of her husband, then he is guilty of adultery.
The Supreme Court of India had started hearing pleas challenging the adultery law in India on August 2, 2018. The bench comprising Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra was headed by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
While there are no changes in the law as of now, we are about to tell you some aspects and updates on the law that everyone must know. As per the Center, the Section 497 of the IPC needs to be protected because it preserves the sanctity of marriages. However, according to Justice DY Chandrachud, the holiness of a marriage is lost even when a married man makes a sexual relationship with an unmarried woman but that has not been described as a crime in law. He went on to add that as per the law, it is considered as a crime only when a man has relations with a married woman and the husband of that woman makes a complaint.
This also implies that if a woman has an extramarital relationship, which includes physical relationship, with the consent or connivance of her husband, then it is not a crime. Surprised over how such a provision got a place in the Indian Penal Code, the bench questioned,
“It is absurd to treat a woman as a chattel. Adultery law reduces women into a chattel. There is no crime if a woman has an extramarital relationship with the consent or connivance of her husband. Are women the chattels of their husbands?”
According to Justice Indu Malhotra, this part of Section 497 of the adultery law in India is “absurd”. In fact, the bench termed this section as manifestly arbitrary which is not based on reason but on personal will.
Section 497 regarding the adultery law in India also clearly indicates that adultery is an offence only for a man who gets into a relationship with someone else’s wife. However, the wife who indulges in adultery is neither considered adulterous nor a criminal and the man gets to face the punishment in terms of jail or fine or both!
Another unfair aspect of the law is that only the husband of the woman who indulges in extra-marital relations is allowed to file a criminal case. The wife of the man who has indulged in adultery cannot complain.
Following all the absurdities that come along with the adultery law in India, many pleas to make it a gender-neutral crime have been filed. However, the bench observed:
“But now the issue is why adultery should be a crime at all. If adultery gets scrapped as a crime for violating Article 14, then no one, neither the man nor the woman, will be punished. Adultery can be ground for divorce and other civil consequences.”
After knowing all the above aspects of the adultery law in India, do you think it is a gender-biased rule?