Nagpur: The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code that had made adultery a punishable offence for men. In four separate but concurring judgments, the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court said the 158-year-old law was unconstitutional and fell foul of Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) and Article 14 (Right to equality).
According to Section 497 of the IPC, which now stands struck down, a man had the right to initiate criminal proceedings against his wife’s lover. It states that 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.
As the Supreme Court came out with the ruling, Nagpurians too came up with mixed reactions.
Nagpur Today approached lawyers across the city to dig deeper into SC’s verdict.
Adv Jyotsna Banerjee, told Nagpur Today, “It is a welcome decision by honorable Supreme Court (SC). This law was gender biased, gives unequal voice to partners. Society has two sets of standards for judging the morality of men and women. When the sexual intercourse takes place with the consent of both the parties, there is no good reason for excluding one party from the liability”
“Criminal law should not be used to control or check private morality or immorality. Criminal law should be used only as a last method of social control” added Banerjee.
Where Banerjee supported this decision, Dr Owais Talib, Principal, City Premier College showed his concern that this step might spoil the root of one of the most sacred covenant of the Indian society – marriage.
“Despite our culture and tradition, Indian society tends to idealize western culture as guidelines. According to me if cheating in business is crime, then cheating in social contract (marriages) is also a crime and it is more grievous and devastating for the society. Ideally both men and women should be punished instead of just men as was the case before. This is yet another bingo moment after ruling out of section 377, I believe Indian law system is rocking now. However no one should be amazed to see prostitution legalized in India, as we are marching towards western culture.”
The apex court also declared as unconstitution, section 198(1) and 198(2) of the CrPC, which allows a husband to bring charges against the man with whom his wife committed adultery.
– Shubham Nagdeve