The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned the government’s stand defending the adultery law that punishes a married man for having a sexual relationship with a married woman.
As the government defended the retention of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for preserving the “sanctity of marriage”, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked how it preserved the “sanctity” when with the extra-marital affair becomes non-punishable if the woman’s husband stands by her.
Other judges on the bench are Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra.
“Where is the sanctity of marriage when the husband can consent,” asked Justice Nariman. The Chief Justice said: “We are not questioning the legislature’s competence to make laws but where is the ‘collective good’ in Section 497 of IPC.”
Telling Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand that “dichotomy is manifest (in Section 497)”, Chief Justice Misra said: “Husband can only have control over his emotion and cannot ask wife to do this or that.”
The court was hearing a PIL challenging the constitutional validity of Section 497 of the IPC and Section 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.