The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the 158-year-old law which made adultery a punishable offence, but with conditions. In its judgement, the five-judge bench said that while adultery can be a basis for divorce, it is not an illegal offence unless it attracts the scope of Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the IPC.
It was a unanimous judgment by CJI Dipak Misra, Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.
The SC bench on August 8 had reserved its verdict after Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, concluded her arguments. The hearing in the case went on for six days and had commenced on August 1.
11:47 am: I welcome this judgement by Supreme Court. It was an outdated law which should have been removed long back. This is a law from British era. Although the British had done away with it long back, we were still stuck with it: Rekha Sharma, NCW chief on SC decriminalising adultery
11:25 am: It is a monumental judgement. I am extremely happy with the judgement. The people of India should also be happy: Petitioner's lawyer Raj Kallishwaram to ANI on SC decriminalises adultery in a unanimous judgement
11:14 am: Adultery could be a moral wrong towards spouse and family but question is whether it should be a criminal offence? Justice Indu Malhotra.
11:12 am: Section 497 perpetuates subordinate status of women, denies dignity, sexual autonomy, is based on gender stereotypes, Justice DY Chandrachud strikes down Section 497 for violation of Articles 14, 21
11:11 am: Section 497 based on women as chattel, seeks to control sexuality of woman, hits the autonomy and dignity of woman, Justice DY Chandrachud.
10:57 am: Section 497 (Adultery) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is unconstitutional: Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra
10:56 am: Mere adultery can't be a crime, unless it attracts the scope of Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the IPC: CJI Dipak Misra reading verdict on the validity of Section 497 (Adultery) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
10:56 am: Legal subordination of one sex by another is wrong. Social progression of women & views of Justice Nariman in Triple Talaq case considered. Adultery can be grounds for dissolution of marriage: CJI reading verdict on petition challenging validity of Section 497 (Adultery) of IPC
10:55 am: Parameters of fundamental rights should include rights of women. Individual dignity important in a sanctified society.System can't treat women unequally. Women can't be asked to think what a society desires:CJI reading verdict on petition challenging validity of Sec 497(Adultery)
10:54 am: Adultery can be treated as civil wrong for dissolution of marriage, says CJI Dipak Misra
10:53 am: Section 497 of the IPC is manifestly arbitrary the way it deals with women: CJI Dipak Misra
10:51 am: Any provision treating women with inequality is not constitutional: CJI Dipak Misra
10:45 am: The magnificent beauty of the democracy is I, you and we: CJI Dipak Misra on the petition challenging the validity of Section 497 (Adultery) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
10:41 am: Equality is the governing principle of a system. Husband is not the master of the wife: CJI Dipak Misra reading out the verdict on the petition challenging the validity of Section 497 (Adultery) of IPC
10:40 am: Supreme Court starts pronouncing judgement on constitutional validity of penal provision on adultery.
What does the current law say on adultery?
Section 497 of the 158-year-old Indian Penal Code says: "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 the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery."
On January 5, the apex court had referred to a five-judge Constitution bench the plea challenging the validity of the penal law on adultery.
The court had taken a prima facie view that though the criminal law proceeded on "gender neutrality", the concept was absent in Section 497.
Union Government's argument
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.
"It is an action willingly and knowingly done with the knowledge that it would hurt the spouse, the children and the family. Such intentional action which impinges on the sanctity of marriage and sexual fidelity encompassed in marriage, which forms the backbone of the Indian society, has been classified and defined by the Indian State as a criminal offence in exercise of its Constitution powers," the Centre had said.
(With inputs from PTI)