Criminal Act Of Adultery Overturned In India

Despite a string of recent liberal-progressive rulings from India's Supreme Court, including the decriminalisation of gay sex, India's conservative and patriarchal attitudes are deeply entrenched.

"The idea of imposition of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code is not to enforce monogamy but to ensure to protect fidelity in the marriage, which is a promise made by both the parties while entering to a marriage", the bench had observed.

Convictions for adultery are very rare because of the social stigma, and mostly families resolve matters among themselves, Supreme Court lawyer Utsav Bains told AFP.

Consensual sexual relationships between two adults, even if married to other people, will no longer be a crime.

While reserving the verdict, a five-bench constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra had on August 8 questioned Central government's stand. Woman has sexual autonomy within marriage.

"In such cases, wives are helpless".

In Indonesia's staunchly-Islamic Aceh province, men and women found guilty of adultery can be whipped 100 times with a thin rattan cane in public.

"The law seems to be pro-women but is anti-women in a grave ostensible way".

Married women in India face huge pressure to limit contact with men other than their husbands.

The law can not dictate human relationships.

The Supreme Court gave a major relief MPs, MLAs and MLCs, who practise law.

Taiwan punishes adultery by up to a year in prison and it is also deemed a crime in Indonesia. It is not the Constitution of India's job to decide what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms.

"A law that perpetuates such patriarchy has no place in the constitution", she said, adding that adultery is a valid ground for divorce, but can not be made a criminal offence.

However, the aggrieved spouse has every right to demand a divorce from their partners, which provision the SC has retained.

Joseph Shine, through advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and Suvidutt MS, had filed a petition seeking the repeal of Section 497 which had come up before the Supreme Court in December 2017. The petitioner had argued that men and women should be equally liable for adultery. Individual dignity is important in a sanctified society.

The top court, calling adultery a relic of the past, said Section 497 "denudes women from making choices". The law was made during the British rule of the territory.

The petition was opposed by the Bar Council of India and Centre.

"The institution of marriage must be protected". Further, they point out that the section also exempts sexual acts with the wife of another man, if they are performed with the consent or connivance of that man. The woman was exempted from punishment. "Patriarchal control over women's body unacceptable", she tweeted.

It creates an offence against men only, rendering a right to prosecute by the woman null and void.

The highest court of the land seems to be embracing this finally.

  • Rogelio Becker