The Union government on Wednesday opposed a plea seeking action against women for adultery. The Centre filed an affidavit against the PIL filed by Joseph Shine in the Supreme Court. The PIL seeks to make men and women equally liable under the offence of adultery explained under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The petition is challenging the 157-year law, which holds only men liable for the crime of adultery. Shine’s PIL has contended that not just the man, but the married woman he has a sexual relationship with, must also be punished as she is the “abettor,” not victim of the crime.
In its affidavit, however, the Centre told the Supreme Court that adultery must remain a punishable offence to protect the sanctity of marriage. It further told the top court that Section 497 was enacted so as to safeguard the sanctity of marriage and diluting it would be detrimental to matrimonial bond, according to ANI.
What the law says
Section 497 of the IPC deals with the crime of adultery. It clearly says that only a man can be held liable for adultery and the woman can’t be held as an “abettor”.
Section 497 also defines when a man can be held for adultery. It 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 law further says the person held guilty of adultery “shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.”
Section 198 (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code explains who can move the court against adultery. “For the purposes of sub- section (1), no person other than the husband of the woman shall be deemed to be aggrieved by any offence punishable under section 497 or section 498 of the said Code: Provided that in the absence of the husband, some person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was committed may, with the leave of the Court, make a complaint on his behalf.”
Sub-section (1) of the CrPC Section 198 says court cannot take cognizance of an offence under Chapter XX of the IPC, unless the complaint is filed by some person aggrieved by the offence.
“No Court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under Chapter XX of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860 ) except upon a complaint made by some person aggrieved by the offence.” The law further lays down several conditions.
Chapter XX of IPC deals with offences relating to marriage.