Laws of hoary past must go: Nariman

NEW DELHI, DHNS: Justice R F Nariman said that a statutory provision that belonged to the hoary past that demeaned or degraded the status of a woman obviously falls foul of modern constitutional doctrine and must be struck down.

Justice Nariman was part of the five-judge Supreme Court bench that struck down the adultery law on Thursday.

In his own 46-page judgement, he said it is "this Court's solemn duty" not to wait for legislation but to strike down such a law.

In his concurring verdict declaring the offence of adultery unconstitutional, Justice Nariman said, "The day has long since arrived when the section (497) does, in fact, need to be done away with altogether, and is being done away with altogether."

The provision had lost its rationale long ago, he said, adding that when it was brought in 1860 into the IPC, the vast majority of the population in this country, who were Hindus, had no law for divorce as marriage was considered a sacrament.

With the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a Hindu man can marry only one wife and adultery was made a ground for divorce, he said.

Justice Nariman further said the provision was based on the "paternalistic notion of a woman being likened to chattel, for if one is to use the chattel or is licensed to use the chattel by the licensor, namely the husband, no offence is committed".

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