Centre opposes plea seeking equal punishment for women in adultery

The central government on Wednesday opposed a plea in Supreme Court that seeks equal punishment for both men and women in case of adultery. As per the current laws, if a married man establishes consensual relations with wife of another man then only the male partner will be hold guilty of adultery.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud had sought center’s response to a PIL filter by Kerala based Joseph Shine, asking that why only the man be considered guilty in a consensual adulterous relation and not also the woman.

The Centre in its response opposing the plea said that Section 497 was enacted to safeguard the sanctity of marriage and diluting it would be detrimental to the matrimonial bond.

What persuaded the SC to examine the constitutional validity of what it felt might be an archaic provision was the clean chit given to the woman, irrespective of her role in the adulterous relationship, as also counsel Kaleeswaram Raj’s argument that as per Section 497 no offence of adultery is committed if there was consensual sexual relation between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman; an unmarried man and a married woman; and between a married man and an unmarried woman.

Section 497 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.”

The bench said: “Prima facie, on a perusal of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, we find that it grants relief to the wife by treating her as a victim. It is also worthy to note that when an offence is committed by both of them, one is liable for the criminal offence but the other is absolved. It seems to be based on a societal presumption.”

(With inputs from TOI)