Breaking Views: SC’s Verdict on Adultery Is Worth Saluting

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Indian society seems to be coming of age as far as sexual relationships between adults are concerned, at least officially. It comes after the same court decriminalized gay sex earlier this month.

It is to be mentioned that the petition was filed by Kerala-based Joseph Shine, represented by advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and Suvidutt M.S., who wanted Section 497 to be dropped as a criminal offence from the penal code.

"Totally disagree with the Supreme Court judgement on adultery".

Section 34 (d) grants the right of a married person to sue his/her spouse on the grounds of adultery, fornication, bigamy, rape or any other unnatural offence.

All the five judges on the Bench were of the common view that the section needs to be declared unconstitutional.

The Constitution bench, also comprising Justices RF Nariman, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, pronounced four sets of concurring verdicts to declare the penal provision on adultery and section 198 of CrPC dealing with prosecution of offences against marriage as unconstitutional.

The CJI, who wrote the judgment for himself and Justice AM Khanwilkar, said the section was "manifestly arbitrary", archaic and violative of the rights to equality and equal opportunity to women and struck it down as unconstitutional. Woman has sexual autonomy within marriage. Husband is not the master of the wife. The Section 497 exempted the wife from punishment and stated that the wife should not be even treated as an abettor.

Also read: India's lopsided adultery law - Adverse impact of patriarchy on men or women?

Also, only the aggrieved husband had the right to file a complaint.

"The law seems to be pro-women but is anti-women in a grave ostensible way". The law dictated that any man who has an affair with a married woman will be punished and the woman will only be looked at as the victim and forego legal consequences.

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The law can not dictate human relationships. "The law is gender biased, gives unequal voice to partners".

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

The Supreme Court has held that the adultery law is a relic of the past.

The Supreme Court has ruled that adultery is no longer a criminal act.

The petition seeking the repeal of Section 497 IPC had initially come up before the Supreme Court in December 2017.

The Centre tried to defend the retention of the law, falling on the preservation of "sanctity of marriage".

Section 497 has been criticised by rights groups for depriving women of dignity and individual choice, and treating them as the property of men. The Supreme Court did not accept the petitioner's argument that the Bar Council of India (BCI) Rules debars legislators from practising law. In fact, Indonesia is drafting laws that prohibit all consensual sex outside the institution of marriage. But the top court observed: "Where is the sanctity of marriage when the husband can consent for his wife to indulge in sexual intercourse with another man?..."

"Besides, the emphasis on the element of connivance or consent of the husband tantamounts to subordination of women. Patriarchal control over women's body unacceptable", she tweeted. Women have been considered superior to men in India.

However, his son Thursday said the decision in Sowmithri Vishnu case dealt with "constitutional challenge by approaching the discourse on the denial of equality in formal, and rather narrow terms".

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