Adultery is no longer a crime in India though it can be grounds for divorce, the Supreme Court said today, dumping a 158-year law that punished a man for an affair but not the woman, treating her as her husband’s property.
“It’s time to say the husband is not the master of the woman,” said a five-judge constitution bench, unanimously sticking up for gender justice and calling out the Victorian adultery law as arbitrary.
Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code punished a man who has an affair with a woman “without the consent or connivance of” her husband, with up to five years in jail.
A petition said by exonerating wives of adultery if done with the consent of their husbands, it discriminates against women, and amounts to “institutionalized discrimination”.
“Adultery cannot and should not be a crime,” said outgoing Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who has delivered a slew of progressive decisions in his last few weeks in office, one of the busiest, before retiring on October 2.
Three weeks ago, the Supreme Court scrapped a colonial-era ban on gay sex.