'Husband Is Not Master Of Woman': SC Says Adultery Not A Crime

Adultery a ground for divorce but not a crime SC

Adultery a ground for divorce but not a crime SC

The Centre had favoured retention of penal law on adultery, saying that it is a public wrong which causes mental and physical injury to the spouse, children and the family.

Making adultery a crime is retrograde and would mean "punishing unhappy people", said Justice Misra.

What do you make of the Supreme Court verdict?

"Protecting marriage is the responsibility of the couple involved. Patriarchal control over women's body unacceptable", she tweeted.

As Anand insisted that the penal provision should stay to punish adultery, which was a threat to the sanctity of marriage, the CJI had said in a lighter vein the offence of adultery "is like a man calling his wife's paramour home and getting him arrested for trespass".

"Excellent decision to de-criminalise adultery".

"Man being the seducer and women being the victim no longer exits".

Justice Chandrachud said Section 497 destroys and deprives women of dignity and is destructive of women's dignity, self-respect as it treats women as "chattel of husbands".

The court also struck down part of Section 198 of the Criminal Procedure Code dealing with adultery, LiveLaw reported. He has presided over a bench that made privacy a fundamental right, and another that struck down a law allowing the Muslim practice of "instant" divorce previous year, widely seen as improving the rights of Muslim women. "They are not in any way situated differently than men", his petition said.

"It was an outdated law which should have been removed long back", said Rekha Sharma, chairwoman of the National Commission for Women, speaking about the law to Asian News International.

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In his 45-page petition, Shine liberally quotes from American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, women rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on gender equality and the rights of women.

The law basically said that, whoever has sexual intercourse with someone else's wife, without the husband's consent, is guilty of the offence of adultery. The next two rulings upheld the law to protect the sanctity of marriage. The Victorian law had also faced flak for treating a woman as the property of a man. Instead, the man was considered to be a seducer. Adultery presently entails imprisonment for a term which may extend up to five years, or fine, or both. Secondly, the provision does not confer any right on the wife to prosecute her husband for adultery. "These charges could never be proved, but ended up smearing the reputations of their estranged or divorced partners", he told the BBC.

"Adultery can not and should not be a crime".

Seeking dismissal of Shine's plea, the MHA referred to the Justice Malimath Committee report suggesting reforms in the criminal justice system and making Section 497 gender-neutral. It was questioned whether a sexual act between consenting adults, albeit not prescribing to conventional notions of morality, could be treated as a criminal offence. In fact, Indonesia is drafting laws that prohibit all consensual sex outside the institution of marriage.

The court has said, however, that the judgment is not to be understood as a license to have extramarital relations.

Most countries have abolished law against adultery, the court added. "Legal sovereignty of one sex over another is wrong".

The apex court added that "without a shadow of doubt", it can still be grounds for divorce.

Earlier this month the apex court had decriminalised same sex offence under Section 377 of the IPC, which was another British era law. The Supreme Court alone sees an average daily footfall of 10,000 now - over ten times the number in 1950 - with no corresponding increase in space. "Stability of marriages is not an ideal to be scorned".

"A law that does not give women the right to sue her adulterer husband and can't be herself sued if she commits adultery is unequal treatment and militates against her status as an individual separate entity".

"The society abhors marital infidelity".

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