Discriminatory ADULTERY Laws in India

Discriminatory ADULTERY Laws in India- Doesn’t Section 497 IPC cause more inequality and prejudice to WOMAN than to MAN?? Section 497 of Indian Penal Code punishes the offence of adultery committed with a married woman without the consent or connivance of her husband. Recently a petition was filed in the constitutional bench of Supreme Court to declare section 497 as unconstitutional being violative of article 14 (right to equality) as the main feature of this offence is that only the male offender has been made punishable and also for treating a married woman like a chattel of her husband that if an act of sexual intercourse takes place between a married man and an unmarried girl or with a widow or with a married woman whose husband consent to it, this offence shall not be deemed to have committed. In 1985 the same issue had come up for consideration before Honourable Supreme Court in the matter of Smt. Sowmithri Vishnu v Union of India and another where it was contended that section 497 is violative of Articles 14 and 15 on the grounds that it makes an irrational classification between man and woman. But this violation causes more prejudice and partiality to a woman than a man and that can be understood by the following facts:- 1. It does not confer any right to the wife to prosecute the husband who has committed adultery with another woman. 2. It confers upon the husband the right to prosecute the adulterer but it does not confer any right to the woman to prosecute the woman with whom her husband have committed adultery. 3. It does not take cases where the husband has sexual relation with an unmarried girl or with a widow or a woman whose husband consents for it. At best a woman can divorce her husband on the ground of adultery which in society like ours where woman is not so empowered and able, is a loss of her own, hardly affecting the husband who is already sleeping around with other women. In a way a man in India has a free licence to have an extra marital affair without worrying to be prosecuted thanks to such discriminatory adultery laws. Thus the provision of this section are more biased and prejudiced to the woman and not man. Meanwhile on this Wednesday, Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court sought reasons as to why adultery, a consensual act, should be considered an offence. The court suggested that it could be a ground for divorce and carry civil penalties, but not a criminal offence.

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