NEW DELHI: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court said on Wednesday that making only men liable for punishment for the offence of adultery appeared to violate the right to equality before law under article 14 of the constituition.
The top court added that adultery will not be gender-neutral law and that it will examine if the law should remain a criminal offence at all.
Appearing for NGO Partners for Law in Development, senior advocate Meenakshi Arora said that Section 497, which makes adultery a crime for men, must be struck down because it treats women as chattel of their husbands by providing that it is not adultery if a man has intercourse with a woman with the consent of her husband.
The centre, in its affidavit, has argued that decriminalising Section 497 of the IPC, which punishes only a man for adultery, would wreak havoc to the institution of marriage. It said: “Striking down of the provision would be tantamount to decriminalising the offence of adultery, thereby eroding the sanctity of marriage and the fabric of society at large.”
The provisions of law, under challenge in the present IPL, have been specifically created by the legislature in its wisdom to protect and safeguard the sanctity of marriage, keeping in mind the unique structure and culture of Indian society.