NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday decided to examine a 150-year-old provision for adultery in the Indian Penal Code, which treats only women as victims and men as offenders. It means women can’t be prosecuted for adultery as on date, though it may change. The court’s move follows a PIL by Kerala-based Joseph Shine.
At present, Section 497 makes adultery an offence only with respect to a man who has a relationship with somebody’s wife. The wife is considered neither adulterous nor an abettor in law, while the man faces a jail term up to five years.
A bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra issued notice to the Centre and asked why a married woman, who is equally liable for the offence of adultery with a married man who is not her husband, be not punished along with the man. The Centre has been asked to reply in four weeks.
“How can a law patronise women by saying women are always victims in a case of adultery? Isn’t such a law discriminatory and implies gender bias? By saying that the offence is not committed if the woman’s husband gives his consent, isn’t the law reducing a woman into a commodity?” asked the bench.
Also, as per the present provision, only a husband or the person in whose care the husband has left his wife can file a complaint under Section 497.
The PIL sought changes in the law based on sexual equality, saying women too be held accountable for adultery.