Supreme Court strikes down Section 497 of IPC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has struck the Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes adultery, as unconstitutional. A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court Thursday unanimously ruled to scrap Section 497, which deals with adultery, of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The five-judge Constitution bench, led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, had reserved it verdict in the case in August.

“Any provision of law affecting individual dignity and equality of women invites the wrath of the constitution.  It’s time to say that the husband is not the master of a wife. Legal sovereignty of one sex over other is wrong” read out Chief Justice Dipak Mishra from the judgment written for himself and Justice AM Khanwilkar. The judgment held Section 497 to be ‘manifestly arbitrary’.

Section 497 punished a married man for having sex with the wife of another man. However, the sexual act is exempted from punishment if it is performed with the consent and connivance of the husband of the other woman.

It also exempts the wife from punishment and states that wife should not be even treated as the abettor.

The court however clarified that adultery will be a ground for divorce. It was also stated that if an act of adultery leads the aggrieved spouse to suicide, the adulterous partner could be prosecuted for abetment of suicide under section 306 of IPC.

According to the media reports, Joseph Shine, petitioner, filed a plea in Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity. It stated Section 497 as “prima facie unconstitutional on the ground that it discriminates against men and violates Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution”.

The Supreme Court heard the matter on adultery for six days and reserved the judgment on August 8, 2018.

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