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Section 497 Verdict: SC rules adultery law as unconstitutional

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Pronouncing a judgement on a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 497, which deals with adultery, of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled adultery law as unconstitutional and archaic.

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra heading the five judge bench comprising R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra reserved its verdict in the case in August.

CJI in his judgement stated that “Adultery can be ground for civil issues including dissolution of marriage but it cannot be a criminal offence.”

Concurring with CJI Misra and Justice Khanwilkar, Justice Rohinton Nariman said that Section 497 is violation of right to equality and right to equal opportunity to women.”

According to the adultery law, it is an offence if a married man has sex with the wife of another married man without his “connivance” or “consent”. But only men, and not women, can be prosecuted under the adultery law. Adultery is the only provision in the penal code that treats men and women differently, for one, because it treats a married woman as the ‘property’ of their husband.

In India, adultery is a crime and the punishment for the same can be imprisonment for five years, or fine, or both.

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