The Supreme Court five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra on Thursday, September 27 has struck down the adultery law which dates back to the 19th-century, calling it unconstitutional. The bench said that adultery couldn’t be a criminal offence and that the adultery law is also a violation of privacy right to some extent. The 158-year-old, adultery law, under which it was an offence under section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) if a man has sex with the wife of another man without the husband’s “connivance” or “consent” is now invalid in the court of law.
A woman is not man’s property
While reading the judgement, the Chief Justice said that it was time to say that “the husband is not the master”, reports The Quint. However, the bench said that adultery can still be a ground for filing a divorce, but it cannot be declared a criminal offence, as multiple parties are involved in it. The bench also observed that adultery alone can not be a crime unless it attracts the scope of Section 306 of IPC (abetment to Suicide). The Chief Justice maintains that the legal sovereignty of one sex over another is wrong.
While advocating to secure the rights of women, the bench in its verdict said that the adultery law dents the individuality of women and that women can’t be asked to think and do according to the will of society. The CJI also said that the beauty of the constitution is that it includes “I, me and you” and that any law which affects individual dignity, equity of women in a civilised society invites the wrath of the Constitution, reports NDTV.
According to the Hindustan Times, Supreme Court’s retired judge V Malimath was given a task to recommend reforms in the criminal justice system. Talking about the Adultery law, the Judge Malimath told the government that adultery should be made gender-neutral. However, the government denied accepting the recommendation.
What did the government say?
In December 2017, Joseph Shine had filed a petition against the law before the Supreme Court. The petitioner had urged that the law was discriminatory and arbitrary. He said that it violated the fundamental rights of the citizens. He has also urged the court to make men and women equally liable for adultery. The petition was represented by Advocates Kaleeswaram Raj and Suvidutt MS. While defending the barbaric law, the Center had said that the law should remain a crime to protect the “sanctity of marriage”
It said that adultery was done knowingly which ultimately leads to hurting the spouse and the children and that this was classified as a criminal offence by the Indian state in the exercise of constitutional powers.
What is adultery?
Under the Section 497 of the IPC, adultery was an offence which penalised a man for up to five years of jail term or fine if found guilty of the offence. According to the law, the married woman could not be penalised for adultery as it treats her as a victim and not as an abettor of the offence. The law said that adultery would not be a crime if the woman’s husband gives his consent to have a sexual affair with another man. The law treats the woman as the man’s property and does not give her own rights.
“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,” reads the section of the law.
The five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had reserved their judgment on August 8. The bench including justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, heard the petition for six days starting from August 1.
It’s so easy to say, “Follow your heart” or “Follow your dreams” but when one actually tries to take that leap of liberty, the society reinforces its shackles. In myriad ways, the age-old traditions come to stop the dreams of the youth. This is more manifest in the case of girls and women. However, passion can’t be contained and restrained for long.
This is the story of Roshni Misbah. Breaking stereotypes, she aspires to be a professional racer. Her journey has been tough, to say the least. Consider this, a hijab-wearing woman riding a sports bike with panache on the Indian roads amid stares, taunts and jeers.
The parents at home know too that society will be unkind and hesitant to accept someone who is flouting the age-old norms. Perhaps, this is why the parents resort to worry and scoldings. However, if the fire of liberty has been lit inside an individual, then it’s only a matter of time before they will rise like a phoenix, gloriously new-born from the ashes.
Roshni has covered over 15,000 km riding more than 60 bikes. She shares, “The sight of a girl on a sports bike deeply dents egos of some men and the taunts start.” It’s not easy to follow one’s dream if there are self-proclaimed proprietors of ‘decency’ at every nook and corner. Yet, Roshni stands tall.
It’s not easy to stand up to your parents and then face the issues they warned you about from society. Is it not right to follow one’s dreams and one’s own heart? If people do not break stereotypes, then all the potential for achievement and innovation will die unfulfilled. If doing something does not break a law, then what gives the right to anyone to comment and object to it?
This is the 21st century. Till when we will allow ourselves to be controlled by the whims and desires of those whose opinions deserve no merit or consideration. If this is not the right time for talented and courageous women to take a stand, then when will that time come.
“When I will walk, you will stare. When I will lose, you will laugh at me, taunt me. But, at the speed of 234 km/h, I wouldn’t hear all this,” says an undaunted Roshni. It’s time we show our support to their leap of liberty and as a society, we come together and say #ChalBadhChal.
The Logical Indian commends the passion and spirit of Roshni Misbah and appreciates Leap 7X by Liberty Shoes for bringing up this story.