In a major development today, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Central government in a petition challenging the Constitutionality of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with the offence of adultery.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misraand Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachudissued notice in the petition filed by one Joseph Shine.

Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, along with advocate Suvidutt Sundaram, appeared for the petitioner.

Section 497 of IPC criminalises the offence of adultery, but only the man is liable to be punished for the offence. Further, if the husband of the woman gives his consent for sexual intercourse with another man, no offence lies.

The Bench, while issuing notice to the Central government, noted in its order that on a prima faciereading of Section 497, it finds that the provision relieves the woman of any liability. The Bench noted,

“Though the act is hypothetically capable of being committed by both the man and the woman only one is liable for criminal offence.”

Besides, the Court noted that though criminal law proceeds on gender neutrality, this provision is an aberration to the same. It was further noted that the provision renders women as chattel.

“It is perceivable from the language of the provision the fulcrum of offence is destroyed once the consent of husband is obtained. Viewed from that scenario, the provisiom creates a dent on the independent identity of women.”

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