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Both men and women have to be equally responsible: CJI during hearing on adultery law

Both men and women have to be equally responsible: CJI during hearing on adultery law

The SC is hearing pleas seeking quashing of the adultery provision in the IPC on the ground that it only punishes married men for having extra-martial sexual relations with a married woman.

NEW DELHI: “Both the parties have to be equally responsible for their act,” Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra observed while hearing a petition seeking to make men and women equally liable for adultery under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The Supreme Court had on Wednesday said that it will not touch the law to make it an offence for women too. “We will test whether Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) on the basis of Article 14 (equality before law) should remain a criminal offence at all,” the bench also comprising justices RF Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, said.

The SC is hearing a clutch of pleas seeking quashing of the adultery provision in the IPC on the ground that it only punishes married men for having extra-martial sexual relations with a married woman.

Section 497 of the 158-year-old IPC says: “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.”

“He shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor,” the section says.

Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, appearing for petitioner Joseph Shine, an Indian who is living in Italy, had on Wednesday said that he is seeking quashing of IPC Section 497 and CrPC Section 198(2). The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) section only allows husband of the woman to file a complaint.

He said they are seeking quashing of the provisions on the ground that it is not gender neutral and violative of the fundamental right to privacy. “The question before the bench is whether a person can be sent to jail on the ground that he had sexual relations with a married woman,” he said.

     

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