In a major overhaul, a parliamentary committee is likely to recommend bringing back the adultery law and adding a gender-neutral provision to it, as well as criminalizing non-consensual sex between men, women or transgender. In 2018 a five-member bench ruled "adultery cannot and should not be a crime".
"It can be a ground for a civil offense... for divorce..." then Chief Justice, Dipak Misra, had said, reasoning that the 163-year-old, colonial-era law had a flawed premise that "husband is master of the wife". The report is likely to recommend that the struckdown provision on adultery be brought back and be made gender-neutral, meaning thereby that the man and the woman could both face punishment. The committee also vetted Section 377 -- a British-era relic that criminalised homosexuality, and which was also struck down by the Supreme Court five years ago.
Committee expected to recommend to reintroduce Section 377
The committee is expected to recommend to the government that "it is mandatory to reintroduce and retain Section 377 of the IPC". The committee has argued that although the court had found this section in violation of Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, provisions of Section 377 "remain applicable in cases of non-consensual carnal intercourse with adults, all acts of carnal intercourse with minors, and acts of bestiality".
Sources cited by two news portals (India Today and NDTV) explained that the move was part of an exercise to rejig colonial era criminal laws. The committee was tasked with the review of three bills which will replace the existing laws the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act.
The three bills sent to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs
The three bills -- tabled by Union Home Minister Amit Shah -- were sent to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs, which is headed by BJP MP Brij Lal, for further scrutiny in August within a three-month timeframe. On Friday the committee met but did not adopt a draft report on the bills as opposition members sought a three-month extension. The next meeting will be on November 6. The other recommendations are to increase punishment for deaths due to negligence from six months to five years, and reduce those for unauthorised protests from two years to 12 months.