Declaring that adultery is not a crime, the Supreme Court Thursday unanimously struck down the archaic law under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code saying it was unconstitutional and dented the individuality of women.
A five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra said that unequal treatment of women invites the wrath of the Constitution. Calling the law archaic and saying that it violates Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, the justices said that: “Adultery can be ground for civil issues including dissolution of marriage but it cannot be a criminal offence.”
Adultery was punishable by a maximum five years in jail or fine or both.
Here are the top 10 quotes by Supreme Court on quashing adultery law:
* Any provision of law affecting individual dignity and equality of women invites the wrath of the Constitution. It’s time to say a husband is not the master of the wife: CJI Misra
* Legal sovereignty of one sex over other sex is wrong: CJI Misra
* Adultery can be ground for civil issues including dissolution of marriage but it cannot be a criminal offence. Adultery dents the individuality of women: CJI Misra and Justice Khanwilkar
* Ancient notions of a man being a perpetrator and woman being a victim no longer holds good. The court cannot wait for legislation when the law has become arbitrary. It needs to be struck down: Justice Nariman
* Section 497 is based on gender stereotypes of the role women: Justice Chandrachud
* Society has two sets of standards for judging the morality of men and women. The law is gender biased, gives unequal voice to partners: Justice Chandrachud
* Adultery might not be the cause of an unhappy marriage, it could be the result of an unhappy marriage. Mere adultery can’t be a crime unless it attracts the scope of Section 306 (abatement to suicide) of the IPC. Thinking of adultery as a criminal offence is a retrograde step: CJI Misra
* Section 497 IPC affects the right to life of a woman under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Women can’t be asked to think and do according to the will of society: CJI Misra and Justice Khanwilkar
* Law deprives married women the agency of consent. A woman loses her voice, autonomy after entering marriage and manifest arbitrariness is writ large in Section 497. Section 497 offends the sexual freedom of women: Justice Chandrachud
* Autonomy is intrinsic in dignified human existence. Section 497 denuded the woman from making choices. It fails to meet the touchstone of Article 21: Justice Chandrachud