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Time to shut private eye – Sec 497 squashed

On September 27, a five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice RF Nariman, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice AM Khanwilkar pronounced a verdict stating the 150-year-old adultery law as unconstitutional. However, the moment Supreme Court scrapped Section 497 of IPC stating ‘Adultery’ is no longer a criminal offence, for many private detective agencies it was a nightmare. Considering from its nature, adultery is known to be a secret act and the business’ of the detective agencies majorly sustained on spying of the spouses for the divorce case.

Bandra based private detective Ramnik Kumar commented, “For me, this verdict came as a big shock. The judgement could be anything, if there is a mistrust in marital relations, the spouses will still spy on each other to tell that they know what the other one is doing. Law may not take cognisance of it, but the family at large may. Our business will be affected but it won’t cease.”

In the cases of adultery, it is very difficult to produce direct evidence. Adultery was both a matrimonial offence and a criminal offence. The requirement of proof in a criminal case is stricter than the requirement in a matrimonial case. In the former case, the act is to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, whereas in the latter the evidence is based on the inferences and possibilities. Confession and admission to parties were not enough to prove the case, therefore, the couples hire a private eye to gather sufficient evidence. Indeed, it is in a rare case that the parties are surprised in the direct act of adultery. Direct evidence, even when produced, the court will tend to look upon it with disfavour, as it is highly improbable that any person can be a witness to such acts, as these acts are generally performed with utmost secrecy. Different courts across the country have held a variety of cases pertaining to adultery. Hence, according to the need of the case, there is a demand to hire a private investigator to confirm the infidelity. It is also been observed that in such cases many couples have gone bankrupt by paying lawyers and private detectives to prove their partner’s secret relations.

Social activist Kumar Saptarshi stated, “The business of private detective can still run even after the court’s verdict to decriminalise adultery law, in order to receive evidence and confirmation of the ongoing affair of the spouse, there will still be a need for detective agents. However, the judgement by the court gave women her a new stand.”

With the rise in the use of digitisation since a few years, there has been several private websites and blogs coming up where one can find various types of articles that provides you with pieces of advice, case studies, information etc. Even the advisors and blog writers might go jobless with one verdict said Vikas Kumar, an IT analyst. He further stated, “On Google, you can find many posts such as ‘How do I find a good private investigator to spy on my cheating spouse for me?’. This is probably the most common (and least effective) way to find a competent P.I. to choose an investigator (or any professional) simply because Google thinks highly of him is risky at best.”

The previous adultery law was against the right to equality and life of women. Nonetheless, the CJI, in order to strike down the gender inequality and patriarchy laws in the society termed the adultery law as manifestly arbitrary. Although, the experts believe that there are several other laws that reveal the double standards such as decriminalisation of marital rape and exceptional laws made in the case of having unconsented intercourse with his wife below the age of 15. The question here arises that how justified is it to have such unreasonable or void laws that portrays a woman as men’s property?

Pramila Verma, a senior journalist and writer said, “Surprisingly, due to the nature of this spying business, the couple are often more secretive. At times, the couples who hire them are not aware of the threat they might pose due to opening up their secrets to the detectives who can hardly help them. Section 497 (adultery) used to give the husband an exclusive right to prosecute his wife’s lover, but now there is a breather and I am happy with this landmark decision. It was a very sensible judgement, but there could be plenty of similar procedure codes that need to be rewritten or scrapped.”

The centre had opposed in the court saying adultery must remain a crime to safeguard the sanctity of marriage, considering the unthinkable turn of events that might take place in the lives of many. Against the court’s verdict, Mrs Reema Ojha, a housewife told AV that the verdict is a very unfortunate development in the lives of many Indian families. The five wise person judgement will put the society at loggerheads and put many knots.

Senior Advocate Abha Singh exclaimed, “According to me, the recent verdict might destroy the institution of marriage. Before the abolition of Section 497, I had gone to the court to seek its opinion whether adultery can be included under 498A to save the institution of marriage. It will have a major impact on women as they will have to tolerate the side effects of the same. Their children also will be affected by this decision when their parents will have an extramarital affair. Lastly, even the business of private detectives will be affected by this new verdict of adultery.”

 

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