Armed forces can take action against their officers for adulterous acts: SC

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph said its 2018 judgement was not concerned with the provisions of the armed forces acts.

Published: 31st January 2023 05:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st February 2023 07:22 AM   |  A+A-

Supreme court

A view of the Supreme Court. (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  The Supreme Court on Tuesday clarified that its 2018 verdict that had decriminalised adultery will not apply to court martial proceedings initiated against armed forces personnel for their adulterous conduct.

A five-judge Constitution bench led by Justice K M Joseph said the court’s ruling in the Joseph Shine case was not at all concerned with the provisions of the Armed Forces Act, Navy Act and Air Force Act. In 2018, a Constitution bench had struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, declaring it to be unconstitutional and violative of the right to equality of women in treating them as “chattel” (an item of property) and inferior to their husbands. Section 497 had made adultery an offence only with respect to a man, who has a relationship with the wife of someone else.

While issuing the clarification, the bench also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar said, in the Joseph Shine ruling, “this court was neither called upon nor has it ventured to pronounce on the effect of section 45 and 63 of the Army Act and corresponding provisions of the other Act.”

The court’s order came on the Ministry of Defence’s plea seeking to exempt armed forces personnel from the ambit of the Shine ruling. It was argued that action against adultery was necessary to ensure that the officers who are serving in far flung areas away from their families do not feel insecure or dispirited. It added that discipline in the military would be eroded if the high moral values of of the officers is diluted.

Simple case of military discipline: Centre
 “It is not about Victorian morality, mine is a simple case of military discipline, operational efficiency for the armed forces,” Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, appearing for the Centre, submitted.


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