Days after the historic decision on LGBTQ, the Supreme Court strikes again with yet another significant decision as Adultery is no longer a crime in India on Thursday. “The husband is not the master of the wife,” said a five-judge constitution bench, unanimously sticking up for gender justice and calling out the Victorian adultery law – Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code – as arbitrary.
While reading out the judgment on adultery, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that while it could be grounds for civil issues like divorce, “it cannot be a criminal offense”, striking down a 158-year law that punished a man for an affair but not the woman, treating her as her husband’s property.
According to the adultery law, a man can be punished for having a sexual relationship with a married woman without the consent of her husband. The petitioners want Section 497 of the IPC to be made gender neutral. In India, adultery is a crime and the punishment for the same can be imprisonment for five years, or fine, or both.
Last year, Joseph Shine, a 41-year-old Indian businessman living in Italy, petitioned the Supreme Court to abolish the law. He argued that it discriminated against men by only holding them liable for extra-marital relationships while treating women like objects.
“Married women are not a special case for prosecution for adultery. They are not in any way situated differently than men,” his petition said.
The law, Mr. Shine said, also “indirectly discriminates against women by holding an erroneous presumption that women are the property of men”.
However, India’s ruling BJP government had opposed the petition, insisting that adultery should remain a criminal offense.
“Diluting adultery laws will impact the sanctity of marriages. Making adultery legal will hurt marriage bonds,” a government counsel told the court, adding that “Indian ethos gives paramount importance to the institution and sanctity of marriage”
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 took the bold decision towards the progress of new India.
Many people were not even aware such a law existed. However, after Thursday’s ruling, people have been largely supportive of the verdict.
Decriminalising of #Adultery is welcome and long overdue. Adultery is now grounds for divorce not crime. The law criminalising men for relations with some other man's wife was patriarchal, assumes wife is husband's property and has no autonomy. Good riddance #AdulteryVerdict
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) September 27, 2018
Next step: make marital rape a crime
— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) September 27, 2018
One line conclusion of SC take on #497 #Adultery law : Whenever society will demand that women also be punished for a crime that man is, they will strike the law itself down rather than making the offence gender neutral.
MEN : You have absolutely no RIGHTS within a Marriage.
— Deepika Bhardwaj (@DeepikaBhardwaj) September 27, 2018
Court shows the way again ! Well done #CJI #DipakMisra– absolutely right. Adultery is grounds for divorce- but criminalizing consensual sexual and marital choices is State Over reach. The only time the State should be in your bedroom is if consent is missing. https://t.co/t4mhkFiKCI
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) September 27, 2018