What definition of Adultery as it varies according

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Last updated: September 29, 2019

What is Section 497 (adultery) of the Indian Penal Code? Explain how itpromotes gender discrimination and Mention the stand of judiciary in thisrespect?The Supreme Court has decided to re-examine the offence ofadultery. Because it is gender discriminatory. In another judgement Supremecourt has held that Adultery itself is not cruelty to wife. What is Adultery?Although there is no specific definition of Adultery as itvaries according to Religion, Culture and Legal terms but in general Adultery isconsidered  an act of voluntary sexualintercourse of a married person other than with spouse. Children born underadultery lead to an impurity in Blood Line. In order to ensure the purity ofchildren, Adultery Laws like section 497 of IPC were introduced.Adultery Law in IndiaUnder IPC (Indian Penal Code)1860, Section 497 adultery is punishableoffense.

Adultery is punishable with an imprisonment for a term up-to fiveyears, or with fine, or both.Section 497 of IPCThis section is gender discriminatory in nature. As this Sectionpunishes only men having voluntary sexual intercourse with other men’s wife, andnot women. Section 497 is violative of Article 14 (Equality before law), Article15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, Race, caste, sex) ofthe Constitution of India as it discriminates among the genders.Section 498 of IPCDetaining of women with an intention of having illicitintercourse is punishable offense.Section198 (1) and (2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure It mentions that only a husbanded of a women can be anaggrieved party in offences against marriage like adultery under section 497 ofIPC and only the husband can go to the court.

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Section 497  of the IPC and section 198(1) ,section 198(2) of  the  Criminal Procedure Code go hand in hand.How Gender Discriminatory?Under section 497 if adultery is committed, the husband can’tprosecute own wife but can only prosecute her adulterer. Section 497 differentiatesbetween consent by a married woman without her husband’s consent and a consentgiven by an unmarried woman. It doesn’t criminalise the sexual intimacy ofMarried Man with an unmarried Women/ widow.Why such Gender Discrimination?When section 497 was enacted polygamy was prevalent in thesociety. Often women were starved of love of their husbands, such women could easilybe attracted to other men who offered it to them. Law Commission of India, 1847on whose recommendation IPC, 1860 was prepared recognised, the poor conditionof women (Prevalence of Sati, Gender Discrimination, Purdah System, Female Foeticideetc) & considered that women are not capable of such crimes and the LawCommission also accepted the responsibility to protect women.

Supreme Court JudgementsYusuf Abdul Aziz caseConstitutional Bench ruled that Section497 is not inconsistent with article 14&15 of Indian Constitution as theconstitution itself provides protection to women and children. Sowmithri Vishnu v. Union of IndiaSupreme Court analysed the meaning andthe purpose of the law. SC considered man and not women as seducer. Thus Upheldthe validity of Section 497 of IPC.

V. Revathi v. Union of India Court mentioned that the Law punishesthe outsider who tries to break the matrimonial alliance by developing illicitrelationship. And it  does not arm thehusband and wife with the criminal law weapon to hit upon each other. Thus law wasupheld.

Other RecommendationsFifth LawCommission in 1971 suggested about reducing the imprisonment term from 5 yearsto 2 Years and making Section 497, gender Neutral. But these suggestions were notaccepted. National Commissionfor women in 2006 recommended that Adultery should be decriminalised. Criticism Against the LawSome criticize it that it has not been able to keep Adulteryat bay. But so is the case with other criminal Laws.

No law in itself is a foolproof against any crime.  As this provision treats Women as a personal property of menand does not consider women as an independent entity, which is further impedimentto Gender Empowerment.Criminalisation of a particular act does not change socialbehaviour.Critics consider Section 497 as a blank cheque to women tohave intercourse with as many men as she wishes and not being liable for such immoralact.                                          

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