Adultery must remain a crime: Govt tells SC

The Union government has told the Supreme Court that striking down the penal provision of adultery would go against Indian ethos and destroy the institution of marriage.

In an affidavit, the Union Home Ministry said decriminalising of adultery will result in weakening the sanctity of marital bond and will result in laxity in a marital relationship.

“Striking down Section 497 of the IPC and Section 198(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code will prove to be detrimental to the intrinsic Indian ethos which gives paramount importance to the institution and sanctity of marriage,” the government said.

The government's response came in a PIL filed by advocate Kaleeswaram Raj on behalf of Joseph Shine. The petitioner sought a direction to strike down the penal provision on the ground that it treated a man as an offender and the married women as a “victim”. The PIL said the law further treated a woman as “property” of the husband since it stated that the offence ceased to exist if the husband connived or consented.

Section 497 of the IPC 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, 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.”

Replying to the petition, the government stated that the Malimath Committee in its reforms on the criminal justice system had recommended amendment into Section 497 to make it gender neutral.

“The provisions in law under challenge 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,” the government said.

It further said the recommendation of the Malimath committee has been referred to the Law Commission, which has in 2014 formed sub-groups for deliberation. The ministry has further in February, this year sought a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, the affidavit said.

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Adultery must remain a crime: Govt tells SC

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