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Should Women Also be Punished for Adultery? Constitution Bench to Decide

Section 497 makes adultery an offence only with respect to a man who has a relationship with somebody's wife. The wife is considered neither adulterous nor an abettor in law, while the man faces a jail term of up to five years.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:January 5, 2018, 8:02 PM IST
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Should Women Also be Punished for Adultery? Constitution Bench to Decide
The Supreme Court had last month admitted a petition challenging Section 497 of the IPC.
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday requested a Constitution Bench to decide the validity of a penal provision that makes adultery an offence only against men.

A bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, noted that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code has already been approved by a four-judge bench in 1954, and therefore, only a five-judge bench can now reconsider the validity of this provision.

Section 497 makes adultery an offence only with respect to a man who has a relationship with somebody's wife. The wife is considered neither adulterous nor an abettor in law, while the man faces a jail term of up to five years.

However, a PIL has now questioned the constitutional validity of Section 497, asking how only a man can be the only seducer in a relationship and if a woman is incapable of committing adultery.

The court had last month admitted for petition, stating a law which apparently "patronises" women by treating them as victims in an adulterous relationship will have to pass the muster of gender equality and legality.

On Friday, the top court noted the previous ruling, and hence, referred the issue to a larger bench.

"As indicated in our earlier order, we had noted that the provision seems quite archaic and especially, when there is a societal progress. Thus analyzed, we think it appropriate that the earlier judgments required to be reconsidered regard being had to the social progression, perceptual shift, gender equality and gender sensitivity," said the bench.

It added that there has to be a different kind of focus on the affirmative right conferred on women under Article 15 of the Constitution.

During the last hearing, the court had further took exception to the language of Section 497, which lays down that fulcrum of the offence is gone if consent or connivance of the husband can be established.

"This provision thus creates a dent in the individual identity of women... it appears to be quite archaic," it had added.

The Court had then emphasised that when society progresses and new rights are conferred upon people, new thought should also rise and hence, Section 497 must be reviewed in present times.
| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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