“Husband is not the master of woman” – Top quotes from Supreme Court judgement on adultery law

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New Delhi | September 27, 2018 1:33 PM

The Supreme Court on Thursday declared that adultery is no longer a criminal offence and struck down a colonial-era anti-adultery law, saying it was unconstitutional, dented the individuality of women and treated them as "chattel of husbands". Here are top quotes from the judgement.

adultery verdict, adultery verdict supreme court, supreme court, adultery verdict top quotes, adultery verdict sc top quotes, india newsThe five-judge bench head by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was unanimous in striking down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code dealing with the offence of adultery.

The Supreme Court on Thursday declared that adultery is no longer a criminal offence and struck down a colonial-era anti-adultery law, saying it was unconstitutional, dented the individuality of women and treated them as “chattel of husbands”. The five-judge bench head by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was unanimous in striking down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code dealing with the offence of adultery, holding it as manifestly arbitrary, archaic and violative of the rights to equality and equal opportunity to women. The bench that included Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra and was led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said that unequal treatment of women invites the wrath of the Constitution.

Section 497 of the 158-year-old IPC says: “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.” The guilty could have been punished for a maximum of five years in jail or fine or both.

Here are top quotes from Supreme Court judgement on adultery –

1. “It’s time to say husband is not the master of woman. Any provision treating women with inequality is not constitutional,” said Justice Misra. The CJI said section 497 of the IPC is manifestly arbitrary in the way it deals with women.

2. “Section 497 is clear violation of fundamental rights granted in the Constitution and there is no justification for continuation of the provision,” Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the bench said.

3. “Adultery dents the individuality of women and it is not a crime in countries like China, Japan and Australia. Adultery might not be cause of unhappy marriage, it could be result of an unhappy marriage,” the CJI said. He added unequal treatment of women invites the wrath of the Constitution.

4. “Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code is clear violation of fundamental rights granted in Constitution and there is no justification for continuation of the provision,” said Justice Nariman.

5. “Section 497 treats women as properties of their husbands and is hence manifestly discriminatory,” Justice Chandrachud said, while adding that it destroys and deprives women of dignity.

6. “Autonomy is intrinsic in dignified human existence and Section 497 denudes women from making choices and held adultery as a relic of past,” Justice Chandrachud said. He added that legislature has imposed a condition on sexuality of women by making adultery as an offence. He said that section 497 is a denial of substance of equality.

The CJI began reading the judgement by saying that the beauty of the Constitution is that it includes “the I, me and you”. He and Justice Khanwilkar said mere adultery cannot be a crime, but if any aggrieved spouse commits suicide because of life partner’s adulterous relation, then if evidence is produced, it could be treated as an abetment to suicide. Separately, adultery can also be held against an individual under Section 498 (Atrocity against women) and Section 306 (abetment to commit suicide) besides being accepted as a ground for divorce.

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