Should women be treated as abettors and not victims for the crime of adultery? The Supreme Court will announce the crucial verdict on a batch of pleas challenging a British-era law on adultery that treats a man having consensual sex with another man’s wife as a criminal but exempt the woman.
The petitioner had challenged the 157-year-old law, saying that the married woman the man has sexual intercourse with shall also be punished as she is not a victim but the abettor of the crime.
In December 2016, the apex court had agreed to hear the petition seeking to examine the constitutional validity of the law on adultery that has “gender discriminatory provision”.
Under the Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a man found guilty of adultery shall be punished with a jail term up to five years and a fine but the woman shall be treated as a victim.
During the hearing, the SC had observed, “Prima facie, on a perusal of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, we find that it grants relief to the wife by treating her as a victim. It is also worthy to note that when an offence is committed by both of them one is liable for the criminal offence but the other is absolved. It seems to be based on a societal presumption.”
What is Section 497, a law that makes adultery a criminal offence only for men
Under the Section 497 of the IPC, adultery (a man having a sexual relationship with another man's wife) is a punishable crime for men with up to 5 years of jail. However, the centuries-old law treats women as victims and not abettors.
"Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor," law says.