Don’t decriminalise adultery in armed forces: Centre to SC


Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 13

More than two years after the Supreme Court decriminalised adultery by declaring Section 497 of the IPC unconstitutional, the Centre has moved the Supreme Court with a plea that the historic verdict shouldn’t apply to the armed forces as it may cause instability among personnel who stay away from family.

A three-judge Bench, headed by Justice RF Nariman, issued a notice to the petitioner on whose plea Section 497 IPC was declared unconstitutional and referred the matter to a Constitution Bench.

Now, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde will constitute a five-judge Constitution Bench, which will hear the Centre and the original petitioner, and decide the issue.

In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court had on September 27, 2018, declared unconstitutional Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which punished only men for having sexual relationship with a married woman. In a unanimous verdict, a five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, had said the 158-year-old Victorian era law was “manifestly arbitrary” and violated a woman’s right to equality and right to non-discrimination guaranteed under Article 14 and Article 15 of the Constitution as it treated them as chattels. The top court had, however, said adultery would be a ground for divorce in matrimonial proceedings and cautioned that the verdict should not be taken as a licence to indulge in such acts.

Striking down the adultery law, the top court had said, “This (Section 497 IPC) treats the woman as a chattel. It treats her as the property of man and totally subservient to the will of the master. It is a reflection of the social dominance that was prevalent when the penal provision was drafted.”

“The enforcement of forced female fidelity by curtailing sexual autonomy is an affront to the fundamental right to dignity and equality,” said the top court. It treated a married woman as a property of the husband,” the Bench had said.

It had said, “In treating a woman as chattel for the purposes of this provision, it is clear that such provision discriminates against women on grounds of sex only, and must be struck down on this ground as well.”

Issue referred to Constitution Bench

  • A three-judge Bench, headed by Justice RF Nariman, issued a notice to the petitioner on whose plea Section 497 IPC was declared unconstitutional and referred the matter to a Constitution Bench.
  • Now, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde will constitute a five-judge Constitution Bench, which will hear the Centre and the original petitioner, and decide the issue.
  • In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court had on September 27, 2018, declared unconstitutional Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which punished only men for having sexual relationship with a married woman.



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