STATING THAT adultery can break families and cause pain, the Supreme Court on Thursday said the armed forces, where discipline is of paramount importance, should have some mechanism to act against personnel for such conduct.
“In armed forces where discipline is of paramount importance, this is a conduct that can shake up the life of officers… and the armed forced must be able to take some kind of action,” Justice K M Joseph, heading a five-judge Constitution bench, said asking how the court’s September 2018 judgment decriminalising the offence of adultery would come in the way.
The bench also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and C T Ravikumar was hearing an plea by the Union government urging the court to clarify that Army personnel can be proceeded under the Army Act for acts of adultery, notwithstanding the 2018 judgment.
Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan said the Army had taken disciplinary action against some personnel for adultery but the Armed Forces Tribunal, citing the 2018 SC judgment, had quashed the proceedings in many of those cases.
Justice Joseph then asked Divan, “Is there anything in the judgment which precludes you from taking action for misconduct?”
As Divan responded that she will go through the judgment in detail, Justice Joseph said, “Our view is that if there is nothing in the judgment precluding you, you will be advised to withdraw this application. You can challenge the individual orders of the AFT instead.”
Adjourning the hearing to December 6, Justice Joseph remarked, “Adultery causes pain and breaks families.” He added, “We have seen in High Courts while dealing with matrimonial cases, how families are torn. We are telling you don’t treat this in a light-handed matter.”
He also recalled an incident from the High Court where he said the mother had committed adultery and the children refused to speak to her, despite best efforts of the judges. “That is the sort of pain, anger and hatred this can create,” Justice Joseph said.
The apex court had in 2018 struck down Section 497 of the IPC which criminalised adultery.