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Won’t make adultery gender-neutral offence, looking into its constitutional validity: SC

Commencing hearings on a petition challenging the constitutionality of IPC Section 497, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by the chief justice of India (CJI) said it had no intention of touching the law to make adultery by women an offence.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2018 23:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
adultery gender-neutral offence,adultery by men,adultery by men as crime
The Supreme Court Wednesday made it clear that it will not make adultery a gender-neutral offence that would end up punishing a woman too, but said it will look into whether adultery should continue to be treated as a crime if a man commits it.(AFP)

The Supreme Court Wednesday made it clear that it will not make adultery a gender-neutral offence that would end up punishing a woman too, but said it will look into whether adultery should continue to be treated as a crime if a man commits it.

Commencing hearings on a petition challenging the constitutionality of IPC Section 497, filed by Joseph Shine, a non-resident Indian, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by the chief justice of India (CJI) said it had no intention of touching the law to make adultery by women an offence.

“We will examine the larger question whether the offence itself should remain on the statute book or not. We will test if the offence violates the right to equality,” observed CJI Dipak Misra.

The case is listed for Thursday and will be heard by the bench also comprising justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwikar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

Section 497 states: “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery.”

Justice Chandrachud said, “... the issue is should adultery be a crime at all and whether it violates Article 14 (equality).”

Admitting the plea last year, the SC had said, “Ordinarily, the criminal law proceeds on gender neutrality but in this provision, as we perceive, the said concept is absent. 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.”

First Published: Aug 01, 2018 23:35 IST