The Supreme Court on Thursday, September 27, ruled that the adultery law, as it stands, is unconstitutional. It was a 150-year-old law which gave a husband the right to prosecute his wife's lover.
Unanimously, all the five judges CJI Dipak Misra, Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, quashed Section 497 IPC. The Bench wrote four separate but concurring judgments. CJI Misra wrote on behalf of himself and Justice Khanwilkar. Justices Nariman, Chandrachud and Malhotra wrote a judgment each.
Section 497 in The Indian Penal Code reads: “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, and 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.”
And as was the case in the Aadhaar judgement, Chandrachud comments denouncing patriarchy and upholding women’s rights must be noted. Incidentally, in striking down Section 497 IPC, Chandrachud had overruled his own father, Justice YV Chandrachud’s judgment, which had upheld the section.