SC judgement on Adultery upholds individual dignity, promotes equal rights

Amnesty International India
New Delhi/Bengaluru: 27 September 2018 5:30 pm

Responding to the Supreme Court judgement that struck down the offence of ‘adultery’ on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, Asmita Basu, Programmes Director, Amnesty India said,

“In a progressive judgement safeguarding individual dignity, sexual autonomy and freedom from discrimination, the Supreme Court has declared Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code to be constitutionally invalid. Section 497 is a colonial-era law, which has no place in a modern society. It is remnant of a time when a woman was considered to be the property of her husband.”

“This is a positive step towards achieving equal rights for all. We look towards the Court with renewed hope for many such gender-sensitive judgements in the future.”



A Public Interest Litigation challenging the constitutional validity of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure was referred to a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court in January this year. On 27 September 2018, a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra struck down Section 497 of the IPC as constitutionally invalid, and consequently Section 198(2) of the CrPC. The Court clarified that ‘adultery’ would continue to be considered a ground for divorce.

Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code permits a man to bring charges of ‘adultery’ against the man with whom his wife has had sexual intercourse. It doesn’t grant the corresponding right to the woman to take action against her husband for adultery, or the person with whom her husband has had sexual intercourse. The Supreme Court found that the classification of what constitutes an offence under Section 497 is arbitrary. The Centre had defended the law and argued that upholding the offence of ‘adultery’ would protect the ‘sanctity’ of marriage, and is for the good of the public.


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Nazia Erum
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