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Decriminalisation of Section 497 IPC

Adultery u/s. 497 IPC implies that women are treated as subordinate to men inasmuch as it lays down that when there is connivance or consent of the man there is no offence. That treats wife as chattel or property of husband. It treats her as the property of man and totally subservient to the will of the master. It is interesting to note that section 497 IPC does not bring within its purview as extra marital relations with an unmarried woman or a widow. Further as per section 198 only husband of adulteress would be aggrieved. Wife of adulterer is given no locus to file complaint. Provisions are manifestly arbitrary and violative of Art. 14. Section 497 IPC effectively creating invidious distinctions based on gender stereotypes which creates a dent in the individual dignity of women. Besides the emphasis on the element of connivance or consent of the husband tantamount to subordination of women. 

Section 497 is different from an offence committed under section 498-A or any violation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 or for that matter the protection conceived under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or Section 306 or 304B or 494 IPC. If adultery is treated as crime then there would be immense intrusion into the extreme privacy of the matrimonial sphere. It is better to be left as a ground for divorce. If the act is treated as an offence and punishment is provided, it would have to punish indiscriminately both the persons whose marriages have been broken down as well as those persons whose marriages are not. Section 497 fails to meet the touchstone of Article 21. Section 497 deprives a woman of her autonomy, dignity and privacy. It is in this view of the matter that we have concluded that Section 497 is violative of the fundamental rights to equality and liberty as indeed, the right to pursue a meaningful life within the fold of Articles 14 and 21.

2018 ALL MR (Cri) 4065 (S.C.)


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