Adultery not a criminal offence; Supreme Court strikes down Section 497

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code that makes adultery a punishable offence for men.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court termed the 158-year-old law as unconstitutional, archaic and manifestly arbitrary.

“Mere adultery can’t be a criminal offence. It is a matter of privacy. Husband is not the master of wife. Women should be treated with equality along with men,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said.

The apex court also declared Section 198(1) and 198(2) of the CrPC, which allows a husband to bring charges against the man with whom his wife committed adultery, unconstitutional.

It trashed the central government’s defence of Section 497 that it protects the sanctity of marriages.

Henceforth, adultery could be a ground for civil issues, including dissolution of marriage. However, it could not be a criminal offence.

However, if any aggrieved spouse ended her life because of her partner’s adulterous relation, it could be treated as an abetment to suicide if evidence was produced.