Landmark Judegement

important supreme court judgements

The court declared that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code -- the adultery law -- was unconstitutional.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Adultery may not be cause of an unhappy marriage, but the result of one: CJI Misra
  • It's time to say the husband is not the master of the woman: Misra
  • Manifest arbitrariness is writ large in Section 497: DY Chandrachud

The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a 158-year-old law that considers adultery to be an offence committed by one man against another, and has been criticised for treating women as possessions rather than human beings.

Adultery is no longer a crime, but it will continue to be grounds for divorce.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra said adultery may not be the cause of an unhappy marriage, but the result of one.

Misra, who wrote a judgment for himself and Justice AM Khanwilkar, said the unequal treatment of women invites the wrath of the Constitution, and that any provision treating women unequally isn't constitutional.

HIGHLIGHTS

The other judges on the bench were Justice RF Nariman, Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justice Indu Malhotra.

FACTBOX: THE JUDGMENT IN TEN POINTS

  • Five judges, including Chief Justice Dipak Misra, unanimously strike down Section 497
  • Equality the governing parameter of the Constitution: Misra
  • It's time to say the husband is not the master of the woman: Misra
  • Section 497 manifestly arbitrary the way it deals with women: Misra
  • IPC Section 497 and CrPC Section 198 unconstitutional: Misra and AM Khanwilkar
  • Adultery can be grounds for divorce, but not a criminal offence: Misra
  • A woman loses her voice, autonomy after entering marriage: DY Chandrachud
  • Autonomy intrinsic in dignified human existence: Chandrachud
  • Manifest arbitrariness is writ large in Section 497: Chandrachud
  • No justification for the continuation of Section 497: Indu Malhotra
  • Section 497 a clear violation of fundamental rights granted in Constitution: Malhotra

Justice DY Chandrachud said Section 497 destroyed women's dignity and self-respect as it treated them as their husbands' chattel, and offended their sexual freedom.

Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery.
- Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code

Chandrachud has now overturned his father Justice YV Chandrachud's 1985 ruling that held the adultery law to be constitutionally valid.

Chief Justice Misra pointed out that adultery isn't a crime in countries like China, Japan and Australia.

He and Khanwilkar said mere adultery can't be a crime, but also that if an aggrieved spouse commits suicide because of his or her partner's adulterous relationship, then -- if evidence is produced -- it could be treated as abetment to suicide.

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