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Adultery grounds for divorce, not criminal offense

Adultery grounds for divorce, not criminal offense

The more than century-old law stated that any man who slept with a married woman without her husband's permission had committed adultery, a crime carrying a five-year prison term. It also cited the "rising misuse of Section 498A of IPC", commonly known as the dowry law, to demonstrate how laws dealing with violence against women can be misused "for harassing the husbands". "Adultery can be ground for divorce but not criminal". "Marriage does not mean ceding autonomy of one to the other". If the defendant is found guilty, he could be thrown in jail for up to five years, face a fine, or both.

Aug 8: SC reserves verdict on pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the penal law on adultery in the hearing that went on for six days.

The top court, which has this year delivered a spate of landmark verdicts, said that adultery dents individuality of women and that women can not be asked to think and do according to the will of the society.

The five-judge Constitution bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra held that adultery can be a ground for divorce but cannot be a crime and cited examples from other countries such as China and Japan where adultery is not a crime.

Chandrachud overruled father's judgement, saying "the wife can not be treated as a commodity by leaving her at the discretion of her husband to give consent to the act". Over the years, more than 60 countries have done away with laws that made adultery a crime.

"Any provision treating woman with inequality is not Constitutional", CJI Dipak Misra said, as he began pronouncing his judgment.

"Section 497 destroys and deprives women of dignity and is destructive of women's dignity, self-respect as it treats women as chattel".

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By exonerating wives of adultery if done with the consent of their husbands, it discriminates against women, and amounts to "institutionalized discrimination", the petition said.

Under the adultery law, only the husband of the woman had the right to file case against the man with whom she commits adultery, but this law won't prevail now.

The legislature has imposed a condition on the sexuality of women by making adultery as an offence, he said, adding that section 497 is a denial of the substance of equality. "I am happy that we have begun thinking on the lines of equality a little", Sharma said.

On the streets of New Delhi it is not common to see men and women holding hands or displaying affection, and if they do, they're likely married. "However, that does not save the provision as being manifestly arbitrary", it said and added that "the rationale of the provision suffers from the absence of logicality of approach".

Those who brought the case had sought to have section 497 of the Indian penal code made gender neutral.

Adultery can be treated as civil wrong for dissolution of marriage.