Humour: Following the verdict

A humorous take on the recently passed SC verdicts

Ten commandments: you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife.

Supreme Court: You shall covet your neighbour’s wife and go unpunished.

Such jokes are doing the rounds of social media and networking apps ever since the apex court declared that adultery would no longer be a crime in the country.

Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which the court struck down, was equally hilarious. According to the 158-year-old law, a man could be punished for having an extra-marital affair with the wife of another person. But he could go scot-free if his indulgence had the consent or connivance of the woman’s husband! Come on, what did the law expect the man to do? Go with an application to the woman’s husband and say, “Saar, please approve this.”

In a way, the Section discriminated against the man because it exempted an adulterous woman from any punishment. While men’s rights activists were hoping the court would make the law gender neutral by punishing women too for their acts of indiscretion, what they got in return was not one but two laddoos. While holding that a husband is not the master of the wife, the judges completely decriminalised adultery, which means it is now perfectly legal for any man and woman to cohabit with each other, irrespective of their marital status. ‘Neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’ may soon turn out to be ‘owner’s envy, neighbour’s bride!

As men jumped with glee over this new-found freedom, their joy was short-lived when they read the fine print. Yes, if your wife catches you between the sheets with another woman, you cannot be punished, but adultery is still a ground for divorce. Besides, if an act of adultery leads an aggrieved spouse to end his or her life, you can be prosecuted for abetment to suicide.

Another interesting part is that while you cannot be punished for the act itself, you can be prosecuted for cheating on your spouse under a different Section of the IPC. Well, every rose has a thorn.

One smart alec recently circulated a message: ‘Even though the Supreme Court has given a nod to adultery, my neighbour’s wife is not cooperating. Can she be arrested for contempt of court?’

Well, our friend perhaps does not realise that anything done without consent could amount to rape and lead you behind bars. Even if you as much as croon Ambarish’s famous lines to Aarathi in the film Naagarahaavu, ‘Hey Bulbul, maathadakilva?’ (Bulbul, won’t you talk to me?) to an unwilling girl, you might be standing before a magistrate. But if you are two consenting adults, you can go the whole hog. You have the full backing of law.

While moralists argue that the Supreme Court has destroyed the institution of matrimony, the Chief Justice has rightly noted, “Adultery might not be the cause of an unhappy marriage, it could be the result of one.”

Many appear to be confused, with the court in the recent past passing several important orders on decriminalising Section 377, legalising adultery and permitting entry of women in menstruating age to the Sabarimala temple.

A message on a networking app puts things in the right perspective: ‘The import of the three apex-court verdicts is that you can now go to Sabarimala with your neighbour’s wife. And both are legal. You can also go with your neighbour’s husband.” Pssst: You can leave your Aadhar card behind, too.

While there are mixed reactions to the adultery verdict, the neighbourhood milkman is a happy soul. He believes the court has now legalised adulteration.

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Humour: Following the verdict

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