NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has declared as "unconstitutional" the provision in the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, making adultery a criminal offence.
The apex court passed the order while taking into account the September last year judgement delivered by its five-judge Constitution bench which had struck down colonial-era section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which dealt with offence of adultery.
"The entire section (497 of RPC) is, therefore, declared to be unconstitutional," a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Surya Kant said in its August 2 order in which it also quashed the proceedings against a serving Army officer who was accused of having in adulterous relation.
Referring to the judgement delivered by the Constitution bench, the apex court said that section 497 of the RPC was violative of Part III of the Constitution of India.
"The sentence 'In such case the wife shall be punishable as an abettor', which does not occur in section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, cannot stand by itself in view of the fact that the expression used is 'In such case'," the bench said.
"The fact that this statement of law in the Ranbir Penal Code is the exact opposite of the statement of law, so far as the wife is concerned, of that contained in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, is of no consequence," it said.
On September 27 last year, a five-judge Constitution bench of the apex court had struck down section 497 of the IPC saying it was unconstitutional, dented the individuality of women and treated them as "chattel of husbands".
It, however, had said that adultery should continue to be treated as civil wrong and can be a ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce.