Adultery grounds for divorce but not a criminal offence, says Supreme Court | india news | Hindustan Times
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Adultery grounds for divorce but not a criminal offence, says Supreme Court

Making adultery a criminal offence is both irrational and unconstitutional, as it interferes with the sexual autonomy of an individual, besides penalizing the man alone for the offence, the bench remarked.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2018 22:56 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Adultery,Supreme Court,Criminal offence
A constitution bench led by CJI Dipak Misra is hearing a petition that wants to make section 497 of the Indian Penal Code gender-neutral. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

Adultery can be a ground for divorce under the civil law but is not a criminal offence, the Supreme Court noted on Thursday. Justice DY Chandrachud batted for sexual autonomy of women in abused relationships and suggested that there was nothing wrong if such “women seek solace and comfort” outside marriage.

The judge is part of a constitution bench led by CJI Dipak Misra hearing a petition that wants to make section 497 of the Indian Penal Code gender-neutral. Currently, only a man can be punished for adultery. The section makes adultery a criminal offence if a married man has a sexual intercourse with the wife of another married man without the latter’s “connivance” or “consent.”

Making adultery a criminal offence is both irrational and unconstitutional, as it interferes with the sexual autonomy of an individual, besides penalizing the man alone for the offence, the bench remarked. The bench clarified that it was not in favour of making the offence gender neutral and would simply examine if the IPC section is constitutionally valid or not. For instance, one of the members on the bench pointed out that it seems to violate the Constitutional tenet of equality by being a law specific to men. The court noted that the adultery law, unlike the bigamy one (494 IPC) does not make the offence gender neutral. Under the bigamy law both men and women are liable for prosecution. Still, both man and woman have a sacred duty to protect the sanctity of marriage by not entering into an adulterous relationship, the CJI commented.

First Published: Aug 02, 2018 22:56 IST