Adultery no more a Crime in India as Supreme Court annuls Section 497

New Delhi – Supreme Court on Thursday anulled the Section 497 (Adultery Law) of the Indian Penal court which gives rights to a man to prosecute his wife’s lover. The adulterer will be jailed for five-years if found guilty.

A five-judge Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Misra termed the 158-years old law of criminalising adultery as “absolutely, manifestly arbitrary and unconstitutional”.

However, Adultery will remain a ground for divorce, the bench added.

“Husband is not the master,” Chief Justice Misra observed.

Justice Rohinton F. Nariman said Section 497  is based on a chauvnistic notion. This is clear from the fact that the cuckolded husband’s connivance removes the element of criminality in an adulterous relationship.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud championed the sexual autonomy of women within marriage.

Partners in marriage should have respect for each other’s sexual autonomy, Justice Chandrachud observed.

Justice Indu Malhotra, reading her opinion the last on the Bench, held that Section 497 based on the Doctrine of Coverture, which holds that a woman loses her identity and legal right with marriage, is violative of her fundamental rights. This doctrine is not recognised by the Constitution.

The judgment comes on a petition filed by a Kerala based man, Joseph Shine, represented by advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and M.S. Suvidutt, seeking a declaration of Section 497 as unconstitutional.