The Centre on Wednesday opposed the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Joseph Shine, seeking to make men and women equally liable under the offence of adultery.
The Centre in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court argued that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was enacted to safeguard the sanctity of marriage and diluting it would be detrimental to matrimonial bond.
The apex court in December last year issued a notice to the Centre asking why a married woman who is equally liable for the offence of adultery with a married man, who is not her husband, be not punished along with the man.
Under the law, the offence of adultery is criminalised, but only the man is liable for punishment.
Further, if the husband of the woman gives his consent for sexual intercourse with another man, the law does not recognise it as an offence.
Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj along with his colleague Suvidutt Sundaram, who appeared before the apex court on behalf of petitioner Joseph Shine, told agencies that the petition also sought to invalidate 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) that states only a husband can file the complaint, that too against the man but not his wife.
“In such a way the provision is engrafted, that if the husband of another poor woman is involved in the offence, then that woman doesn’t have any legal remedy at all,” Raj said.
The top court prima-facie accepted the contention saying that the provision is not gender-neutral.
Advocate Sundaram informed that a report presented by the Law Commission of India 1971 and Malimath committee report in 2003 also recommended that section 497 should be removed.
Sundaram said that the law doesn’t hold relevance in modern times, and added, “If we compare it to foreign countries like Uganda, Guatemala, South Korea they have removed the provision of adultery. Only in India, we are still carrying the IPC drafted by Macaulay in 1860 and the provision about adultery.”