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Husband is not master of woman, says SC while striking down adultery law as unconstitutional, arbitrary

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday delivered its judgement on constitutional validity of penal provision of adultery saying that unequal treatment of women invites the wrath of the Constitution. The apex court’s five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the beauty of the Constitution is that it includes “the I, me and you”.

The apex court is dealing with section 497 of the 158-year-old Indian Penal Code says: “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.”

The CJI, which wrote the judgement for himself and Justice A M Khanwilkar, said that equality is the governing parameter of the Constitution.


The court said any provision treating women with inequality is not constitutional and it’s time to say that husband is not the master of woman. The CJI said section 497 of the IPC is manifestly arbitrary the way it deals with women. The bench said adultery can be treated as civil wrong for dissolution of marriage.

There can’t be any social licence which destroys a home, the CJI said, adding that adultery should not be a criminal offence. The court said adultery can be a ground for civil wrong, a ground for divorce but not criminal offence. Presently, the offence of adultery entails a maximum punishment of five years, or with fine, or both.

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