As per the Indian law, a woman cannot be punished for the offence of adultery. Only a man who has consensual sexual intercourse with the wife of another man without his consent can be punished under this offense in India. If someone “lives in adultery”, the partner can file for divorce.
Slowly we are realising the ideals which are enshrined in our Constitution, equality, and dignity of individuals. Our society is undergoing a rapid transition, one from patriarchal mindset to a society where individual freedom and liberty are more important. As a young generation, we expect the archaic and outdated laws which do not reflect the aspirations of our time to be left behind during this transition process. And as for the judgment to be implemented in it is a true spirit, we will need a judiciary and public open to the idea of equality and dignity of each individual is paramount to right to life.
The verdict may end male hegemony and exploitation of women to a great extent. We all feel very happy to note that adultery is not a crime. Discrimination in law has been struck down. After all said and done, when it comes to life, it all depends upon the individuals and their action. Expressing agency in the form of choice, or exercising equality, the fact remains that human behaviour is a combination of factors and people can rationalise it to suit themselves. Choice can be rooted in utter self-centeredness, rights can trample duty and autonomy can be devoid of responsibility. It may have been correct to allow the rights available to men under the impugned article to the wife also so that equality for the two sexes is brought in like any other sphere.
Hope that this does not lead to the destruction of an established institution called marriage. This institution has the privilege of helping the development of a healthy society with high qualities such as tolerance, mutual trust, Goodwill, apart from imparting the traits of love affection and caring for fellow beings in the children, the future of the country. Children born out of adultery may not get the advantages of good parenting which can guide them towards the good things of human life. Such children can become ruffians/terrorists owing to antisocial elements getting control of them in the name of fulfilling their wants which may grow beyond reasonable proportions. This can pose an insurmountable danger to the welfare of the society and the country at large.
But the SC should also afford the right to men and women to divorce their spouse if he or she is found to be adulterous. You cannot force a man to live with his adulterous wife. Similarly, you cannot force a woman to live with her adulterous husband. If someone is not happy or sexually satisfied with his/her spouse then he/she must leave him/her. The adulterous spouse should also be asked to compensate monetarily to his/her spouse. Then only we can say that the SC has been just and objective.
The judiciary analysis of Sec 497 is good enough, duly taking into consideration the prevailing situation in the Society. It is the human being to take the right path after distinguishing the right and wrong. Even if Sec 497 is scrapped, the public can still lead a concerted, disciplined family life with the bondage of love among the family members. If there is no moral and ethical standard among the couple, howsoever the Law may prescribe rules, practically it is not possible to implement. With this background, the SC has decided to scrap the section and leave it to the public to decide themselves to choose between what is right and what is pleasant. If the public can realise that every body’s body consists the same flesh, bones and blood etc, probably they may not be tempted to have extra-marital relationships with other than the spouse.
A great judgment — Justice Chandrachud’s opinion shows that there are enough enlightened persons in the country — the only need of the hour is to inculcate these ideas into Indian daily life. Cinema, particularly Tamil mainstream cinema used to play a part in fostering social awareness during the early days of independence and we need similar mass media involvement now.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)