The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered its judgment on a petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 497 and ruled out the 150-year-old law by declaring it as unconstitutional. Adultery comes under section 497 of the Indian Penal Code and states:
"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."
Amid the equality debate, a five-judge bench headed by CJI Dipak Mishra declared the law as "manifestly arbitrary".While pronouncing the full verdict on the law CJI Dipak Misra gave out a strong message. He said:
"Women’s individual dignity is important. Husband is not the master of a woman. The Legal sovereignty of one sex over another is wrong. Section 497 is unconstitutional. Equality is the need of the hour".
"Adultery as a criminal offence under Section 497 is manifestly arbitrary. Section 497 affects the subordination of women. Adultery can be a ground for divorce but not a criminal offence. Adultery dents the individuality of women", he added.
The full verdict by CJI Dipak Misra:
Earlier, a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra along with justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra had in August, reserved its order on a batch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Section 497 (Adultery) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
During the previous hearing, the Centre had defended the validity of section 497 of the IPC before the Supreme Court, stating that adultery was a crime because it damaged marriage and the family. The Supreme Court bench had questioned the government on how the law protects the sanctity of marriage when the extra-marital affair becomes non-punishable.