Supreme Court issues notice in PIL challenging adultery laws under Section 497 of IPC

Published on 09 Dec 2017 by Team

In a major development today, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Central government in a petition challenging the Constitutionality of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with the offence of adultery.A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud issued notice in the petition filed by one Joseph Shine.Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, along with advocate Suvidutt Sundaram, appeared for the petitioner.

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Section 497 of IPC criminalises the offence of adultery, but only the man is liable to be punished for the offence. Further, if the husband of the woman gives his consent for sexual intercourse with another man, no offence lies.The Bench, while issuing notice to the Central government, noted in its order that on a prima facie reading of Section 497, it finds that the provision relieves the woman of any liability. The Bench noted,

“Prima facie, on a perusal of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, we find that it grants relief to the wife by treating her as a victim. It is also worthy to note that when an offence is committed by both of them, one is liable for the criminal offence but the other is absolved. It seems to be based on a societal presumption.”

Besides, the Court noted that though criminal law proceeds on gender neutrality, this provision is an aberration to the same.

“Ordinarily, the criminal law proceeds on gender neutrality but in this provision, as we perceive, the said concept is absent. That apart, it is to be seen when there is conferment of any affirmative right on women, can it go to the extent of treating them as the victim, in all circumstances, to the peril of the husband.”

It was further noted that the provision renders women as chattel by creating a dent on the individual independent identity of a woman.

“Quite apart from that, it is perceivable from the language employed in the Section that the fulcrum of the offence is destroyed once the consent or the connivance of the husband is established. Viewed from the said scenario, the provision really creates a dent on the individual independent identity of a woman when the emphasis is laid on the connivance or the consent of the husband. This tantamounts to subordination of a woman where the Constitution confers equal status. A time has come when the society must realise that a woman is equal to a man in every field. This provision, prima facie, appears to be quite archaic..”

The Court therefore proceeded to issue notice returnable in four weeks.

Source- Bar & Bench

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