Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. allowed the application of the petitioner to set aside the order granting maintenance to his wife when the divorce was granted on account of adultery on the wife’s part.

The petitioner filed an application under Section 19(4) of the Family Courts Act, 1984, against the order dated passed by the Principal Judge, Family Court, Vaishali at Hajipur which directed the petitioner to pay Rs 8,000 per month as maintenance to his wife. The order was delivered ex parte and there was no valid service of notice on the petitioner during the proceeding and, thus, he was unaware of the same. The revision petition was filed within the limitation period.

The impugned order was passed under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which excludes a wife living in adultery from being entitled to receive any maintenance. It was submitted that in Divorce Case filed by the petitioner against the opposite party and one Sunny

Rajak, the Principal Judge, Family Court, Samastipur by judgment dated 11-10-2017, had dissolved the marriage between the petitioner and the opposite party on the ground that she was living in adultery with Sunny Rajak. It was submitted that in the said case, Sunny Rajak had contested the suit whereas the opposite party had chosen not to contest. The learned counsel submitted that once a competent Court had held the opposite party to be living in adultery with Sunny Rajak, Section 125(4) of the Code disentitles her to any maintenance from the petitioner.

The opposite party submitted that they have challenged the decree of divorce which was still pending.

The Court held that the order passed in the Maintenance Case No. 84 of 2016, could not be sustained. Section 125(4) of the Code clearly debars a wife living in adultery from receiving any maintenance from her husband. In the present case, the marriage between the parties was dissolved on the grounds that the opposite party was found to be living in adultery with one Sunny Rajak.  Further, the Court also that mere pendency of an appeal against the order dissolving the marriage, inter alia on the ground of adultery, which till date was neither disposed of nor any interim stay of such order was granted, cannot be a ground to uphold the order impugned.

In view of the above-noted facts, the instant application was allowed and the order in the Maintenance Case was set aside.[Rajesh Rajak v. Rinku Devi, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1521, decided on 30-08-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: Alexander Thomas, J. while hearing a revision petition, remitted a matrimonial case to the Family Court, Kalpetta for consideration and disposal afresh, after hearing both the parties.

Revision petitioner herein sought maintenance in Family Court, Kalpetta, from the respondent-husband. She was aggrieved by the judgment that dismissed her plea to seek maintenance on the ground that she had engaged in adultery, and also because she was employed and getting enough income to maintain herself. Hence, she filed the instant revision petition.

The petitioner contended that there was no visual or documentary evidence produced by the respondent to prove an act of adultery. The decision was passed on the basis of the respondent submitting one instance of lapse of virtue on the part of the petitioner. 

It was submitted before the Court that it is a common fact as held by the same court in Sandha v. Narayanan, 1999 SCC OnLine Ker 64 that to constitute an act of adultery, there should be a continuous course of conduct or living in the state of quasi-permanent union with the adulterer, and in the case of unchastity or a few lapses of virtue, it will not prevent a wife from claiming maintenance from her husband. As there was no evidence to prove the continuation of adultery, the revision petitioner had stated the judgment of the Family Court to be legally unsustainable.

It was further contended that the Family Court Judge failed to consider the status of her employment in light of Chaturbhuj v. Sitabhai, (2008) 2 SCC 316 that the term “unable to maintain herself” means the inability of the wife to maintain herself in the same manner in which she used to live with her husband, and will not take into consideration the efforts of the wife to maintain herself after desertion. The petitioner provided a certificate as evidence that she was not employed as staff but was kept as a data entry operator apprentice and was only given money to manage the expenses for bus charges, etc.

Owing to the aforementioned contentions, this Court directed the Family Court to reconsider the case in detail by hearing both the sides, and pass an order disposing of the case, without any delay within a period of three months from the date of production of a certified copy of this judgment. [Faseela v. Shafeek, RP (FC) No. 115 of 2019, decided on 23-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Ahsanuddin Amanullah, J. quashed criminal proceeding filed in the year 2013 under Section 497 of the Penal Code, 1860 against a person accused of adultery, in view of Supreme Court’s decision in Joseph Shine v. Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC 39.

Petitioner herein had filed a complaint case against the opposite party 2 alleging adultery with his wife, wherein the Chief Judicial Magistrate issued summons under Section 497 of the Penal Code, 1860. The said order of cognizance was challenged by opposite party 2 before the Sessions Judge by way of a criminal revision petition, and the order of cognizance was set aside. Aggrieved thereby, the instant application was filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 praying for setting aside of order dated 22-09-2014.

Counsel for the parties Mr Prabhu Narayan Sharma (for petitioner), Mr Md. Arif (for State) and Mr Saket Tiwary (for opposite party 2) submitted that the aforesaid issue was no more res integra for the reason that a Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court had held Section 497 IPC to be unconstitutional and has also declared Section 198 CrPC, which deals with the procedure for filing complaint in relation to an offence of adultery, as unconstitutional.

In view of the above, the Court held that cognizance against the opposite party 2 under Section 497 IPC could not be sustained. Thus, the entire criminal proceeding arising out of complaint case was quashed.[Devraj Dev v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 431, Order dated 02-04-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

In the southeast Asian nation of Brunei a new law proposed Homosexuality and Adultery to be punishable by death.

As per the new law, anyone found to be guilty of the offenses will be stoned to death. The capital punishments are to be “witnessed by a group of Muslims.”

Beginning on April 3, any individuals found guilty of the offenses will be stoned to death, according to a new penal code.

The new penal code was announced in May 2014, by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who also acts as the country’s prime minister. In announcing the change, government’s website quoted the Sultan saying that his government “does not expect other people to accept and agree with it, but that it would suffice if they just respect the nation in the same way that it also respects them.”

[Source: CNN]

Image Credits: CNN

Law made Easy

[Disclaimer: This note is for general information only. It is NOT to be substituted for legal advice or taken as legal advice. The publishers of the blog shall not be liable for any act or omission based on this note]

Introduction

The word “adultery” derives its origin from the French word “avoutre”, which has evolved from the Latin verb “adulterium” which means “to corrupt”[1]. The dictionary meaning of adultery is that a married man commits adultery if he has sex with a woman with whom he has not entered into wedlock.

Under Indian law, Section 497 IPC  makes adultery a criminal offence, and prescribes a punishment of imprisonment upto five years and fine. The offence of adultery under Section 497 is very limited in scope as compared to the misconduct of adultery as understood in divorce proceedings. The offence is committed only by a man who had sexual intercourse with the wife of another man without the latter’s consent or connivance. The wife is not punishable for being an adulteress, or even as an abettor of the offence[2]. Section 198 CrPC deals with a “person aggrieved”. Sub-section (2) treats the husband of the woman as deemed to be aggrieved by an offence committed under Section 497 IPC and in the absence of husband, some person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was committed, with the permission of the court. It does not consider the wife of the adulterer as an aggrieved person.

Section 497 IPC and Section 198(2) CrPC together constitute a legislative packet to deal with the offence of adultery[3] which have been held unconstitutional and struck down by the Supreme Court in Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

 Penal Code

Section 497. Adultery. — 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, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such a case, the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.

 Criminal Procedure Code

Section 198. Prosecution for offences against marriage. —  (1) No Court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under Chapter XX of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) except upon a complaint made by some person aggrieved by the offence:

* * * * * * * * * *

(2) For the purposes of sub-section (1), no person other than the husband of the woman shall be deemed to be aggrieved by any offence punishable under Section 497 or Section 498 of the said Code:

Provided that in the absence of the husband, some person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was committed may, with the leave of the Court, make a complaint on his behalf.

* * * * * * * * * *

Classification of offence

The offence of adultery is non-cognizable (a case in which a police officer cannot arrest the accused without an arrest warrant). Also, it is a bailable offence.

Compoundable offence

The offence of adultery is compoundable by the husband of the woman with whom adultery is committed. Compoundable offences are those where the court can record a compromise between the parties and drop charges against the accused. [Section 320 CrPC].

Cases

Offence of adultery held unconstitutional: Understanding Joseph Shine v. Union of India

Sections 497 IPC and 198(2) CrPC insofar it deals with the procedure for filing a complaint in relation to the offence of adultery, are violative of Articles 14, 15(1) and 21 of the Constitution, and are therefore struck down as being invalid, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

This Note hereinafter discusses various observations of the Supreme Court in Joseph Shine case.

Object

The object of Section 497 is to preserve sanctity of marriage. The society abhors marital infidelity.[4]

However, this object does not find favour with the Supreme Court. In Joseph Shine, the Court observed thus:  

“… the ostensible object, as pleaded by the State, being to protect and preserve the sanctity of marriage, is not, in fact, the object of Section 497 at all …”

It was further observed that the sanctity of marriage can be utterly destroyed by a married man having sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman or a widow which is not penalised by the legislature. Also, if the husband consents or connives at the sexual intercourse that amounts to adultery, the offence is not committed, thereby showing that it is not sanctity of marriage which is sought to be protected and preserved, but a proprietary right of a husband.

History

Section 497 is a pre-constitutional law which was enacted in 1860. At that point of time, women had no rights independent of their husbands, and were treated as chattel or “property” of their husbands. Hence, the offence of adultery was treated as an injury to the husband, since it was considered to be a “theft” of his property, for which he could proceed to prosecute the offender.

The first draft of the IPC released by the Law Commission of India in 1837 did not include “adultery” as an offence. Lord Macaulay was of the view that adultery or marital infidelity was a private wrong between the parties, and not a criminal offence. The views of Lord Macaulay were, however, overruled by the other members of the Law Commission, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Ingredients

In order to constitute the offence of adultery, the following must be established:–

(i) Sexual intercourse between a married woman and a man who is not her husband;

(ii) The man who has sexual intercourse with the married woman must know or has reason to believe that she is the wife of another man;

(iii) Such sexual intercourse must take place with her consent, i.e., it must not amount to rape;

(iv) Sexual intercourse with the married woman must take place without the consent or connivance of her husband.

After stating the ingredients as mentioned above, the Supreme Court in Joseph Shine goes on to discuss the vice of unconstitutionality inherent in the offence of adultery, as may be seen presently.

Who may file a complaint

Only husband of the woman with whom adultery is committed is treated as an aggrieved person and only he can file a complaint. However, in his absence, some other person who had care of the woman on his behalf at the time when such offence was committed may file a complaint on husband’s behalf if the court allows. [Section 198(2) CrPC]

In Joseph Shine, this was held to be arbitrary and violative of constitutional guarantees as is discussed below.

Woman has no right to file a complaint

A wife is disabled from prosecuting her husband for being involved in an adulterous relationship. The law does not make it an offence for a married man to engage in an act of sexual intercourse with a single woman, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Who can be prosecuted

It is only the adulterous man who can be prosecuted for committing adultery, and not the adulterous woman, even though the relationship is consensual. The adulterous woman is not even considered to be an abettor to the offence. Woman is exempted from criminal liability.

Presence of an adequate determining principle for such classification was doubted in  Joseph Shine.

Woman treated as property of man

Historically, since adultery interfered with the “husband’s exclusive entitlements”, it was considered to be the “highest possible invasion of property”, similar to theft.[5]

On a reading of Section 497, it is demonstrable that women are treated as subordinate to men inasmuch as it lays down that when there is connivance or consent of the man, there is no offence. This treats the woman as a chattel. It treats her as the property of man and totally subservient to the will of the master. It is a reflection of the social dominance that was prevalent when the penal provision was drafted, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Section 497 violates Articles 14 [Equality before law]

Section 497 treats men and women unequally, as women are not subject to prosecution for adultery, and women cannot prosecute their husbands for adultery. Additionally, if there is “consent or connivance” of the husband of a woman who has committed adultery, no offence can be established. The section lacks an adequately determining principle to criminalise consensual sexual activity and is manifestly arbitrary and therefore violative of Article 14, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Section 198(2) CrPC also violates Article 14 [Equality before law]

Section 198(2) CrPC does not consider the wife of the adulterer as an aggrieved person. The rationale of the provision suffers from the absence of logicality of approach and therefore it suffers from the vice of Article 14 of the Constitution being manifestly arbitrary, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Violation of Article 15(1) [Prohibition of discrimination]

Article 15(1) prohibits the State from discriminating on grounds only of sex. A husband is considered an aggrieved party by the law if his wife engages in sexual intercourse with another man, but the wife is not, if her husband does the same. Viewed from this angle, the offence of adultery discriminates between a married man and a married woman to her detriment on the ground of sex only. The provision is discriminatory and therefore, violative of Article 15(1), Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Violation of dignity of woman and Article 21 [Right to life]

Dignity of the individual is a facet of Article 21. Section 497 effectually curtails the essential dignity which a woman is entitled to have by creating invidious distinctions based on gender stereotypes which creates a dent in the individual dignity of women.

Besides, the emphasis on the element of connivance or consent of the husband tantamount to the subordination of women. Therefore, the same offends Article 21, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Violation of right to privacy and right to choose

This Court has recognised sexual privacy as a natural right, protected under the Constitution. Sharing of physical intimacies is a reflection of choice. To shackle the sexual freedom of a woman and allow the criminalisation of consensual relationships is a denial of this right, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Married woman’s sexual agency rendered wholly dependent on consent or connivance of husband

A man who has sexual intercourse with a married woman without the consent or connivance of her husband, is liable to be prosecuted for adultery even if the relationship is based on consent of the woman. Though granted immunity from prosecution, a woman is forced to consider the prospect of the penal action that will attach upon the individual with whom she engages in a sexual act. To ensure the fidelity of his spouse, the man is given the power to invoke the criminal sanction of the State. In effect, her spouse is empowered to curtail her sexual agency, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Section 497 denudes woman’s sexual autonomy

Section 497 denudes a woman of her sexual autonomy in making its free exercise conditional on the consent of her spouse. In doing so, it perpetuates the notion that a woman consents to a limited autonomy on entering marriage. The enforcement of forced female fidelity by curtailing sexual autonomy is an affront to the fundamental right to dignity and equality, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Opposed to “constitutional morality”

It is not the common morality of the State at any time in history, but rather constitutional morality, which must guide the law. In any democracy, constitutional morality requires the assurance of certain rights that are indispensable for the free, equal, and dignified existence of all members of society. A commitment to constitutional morality requires enforcement of the constitutional guarantees of equality before the law, non-discrimination on account of sex, and dignity, all of which are affected by the operation of Section 497, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Premised on sexual stereotypes

Section 497 is premised upon sexual stereotypes that view women as being passive and devoid of sexual agency. The notion that women are ‘victims’ of adultery and therefore require the beneficial exemption has been deeply criticized by feminist scholars, who argue that such an understanding of the position of women is demeaning and fails to recognize them as equally autonomous individuals in society[6], Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Breakdown of marriage

In many cases, a sexual relationship by one of the spouses outside of the marriage may lead to the breakdown of marriage. But often, such a relationship may not be the cause but the consequence of a pre-existing disruption of the marital tie, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Case of pending divorce proceedings

Manifest arbitrariness is writ large even in case of a married woman whose marriage has broken down, as a result of which she no longer cohabits with her husband, and may, in fact, have obtained a decree for judicial separation against her husband, preparatory to a divorce being granted. If during this period, she has sex with another man, the other man is immediately guilty of the offence, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Whether adultery should be treated as a criminal offence?

Adultery is basically associated with the institution of marriage. Treating adultery an offence would tantamount to the State entering into a real private realm. Adultery does not fit into the concept of a crime. It is better to be left as a ground for divorce, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

International perspective

International trends worldwide indicate that very few nations continue to treat adultery as a crime, though most nations retain adultery for the purposes of divorce laws, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Why did the Supreme Court not wait for the legislature and itself strike down the provisions?

These sections are wholly outdated and have outlived their purpose. Maxim of Roman law, cessante ratione legis, cessat ipsa lex [when the reason of the law ceases, the law itself also ceases], applies to interdict such law. Moreover, when such law falls foul of constitutional guarantees, it is Supreme Court’s solemn duty not to wait for legislation but to strike down such law, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

Adultery continues to be a ground for divorce

There can be no shadow of doubt that adultery can be a ground for any kind of civil wrong including dissolution of marriage, Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

———————————————————————-

Further Suggested Reading

  1. Kumar Askand Pandey B.M. Gandhi Indian Penal Code (IPC) [Buy Here]
  2. C.K. Takwani – Indian Penal Code (IPC) [Buy Here]
  3. Surendra Malik and Sudeep Malik – Supreme Court on Penal Code Collection by Surendra Malik and Sudeep Malik [Buy Here]
  4. Dr. Murlidhar Chaturvedi – Indian Penal Code (Hindi) [Buy Here]

† Assistant Editor (Legal), EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd.

[1] The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language, Deluxe Encyclopedic Edition, Trident Press International (1996 Edn.).

[2] Law Commission of India, 42nd Report, The Indian Penal Code, June 1971.

[3] V. Revathi v. Union of India, (1988) 2 SCC 72.

[4] Malimath Committee Report on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, March 2003, Vol 1.

[5] R v. Mawgridge, (1706) Kel 119.

[6] Malimath Committee Report on Reforms of Criminal Justice System, March 2003, Vol 1.

Image Credits: ndtv.com

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of M.G. Giratkar, J. allowed revision petition and set aside appellant’s conviction under Section 497 IPC in light of Supreme Court decision in Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676.

The applicant was alleged to have had sexual relations with complainant’s wife. He was tried and convicted by the trial court for committing the offence of adultery under Section 497 IPC. His appeal thereagainst before the Additional Session Judge was dismissed. Hence, then he filed the present application for revision. It was prayed that in light decision in Joseph Shine where Supreme Court had held Section 497 to be unconstitutional, the present application ought to be allowed.

The High Court relied on A.S. Gauraya v. S.N. Thakur, (1986) 2 SCC 709 wherein it was held that a law declared by Supreme Court applies even to pending proceedings with retrospective effect. Hence, the Court gave retrospective effect to the law laid down in Joseph Shine to the proceeding pending before it. The Supreme Court in Joseph Shine held Section 497 IPC and Section 198 (2) CrPC to be violative of Articles 14, 15(1) and 21 and therefore unconstitutional. Therefore, in view of Joseph Shine, the conviction and punishment awarded to the applicant under Section 497 was quashed and set aside. [Rupesh v. Charandas,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 6292, dated 14-12-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu & Kashmir High Court: A Single Judge Bench of Sanjay Kumar Gupta, J., disposed of a revision petition filed against the order of the lower court, whereby the respondent was granted bail in a case related to the offences under Sections 457, 497 and 109 of the Ranbir Penal Code.

The main issue that arose before the Court was whether the lower court was justified in granting bail to the respondent.

One of the main contentions raised by the petitioner was that the respondent was a BSF officer i.e. he belonged to a disciplined and reputed force of this country and an offence of adultery committed by him on a woman, who was the school teacher, was an offence against the education system as well.

The Court observed that the offences under Sections 457 and 497 of the RPC are non-bailable. The lower court ought to have afforded an opportunity to the prosecuting agency to put forth objections before granting bail to the respondent, however the said opportunity was not given to the prosecuting agency and the respondent was granted bail as he himself surrendered before the court.

The Court held that the order passed by the lower court was not according to the law since it was passed without providing the prosecution an opportunity to place objections, as the offences for which the accused was charged were non-bailable offences. However, since a time of 6 years had already passed, the Court refused to cancel the bail granted to the petitioner by the lower court.[Mohd. Ayub v. Sudesh Kumar, CRR No. 56 of 2012, order dated 30-10-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

The civility of a civilization earns warmth and respect when it respects more the individuality of a woman. The said concept gets a further accent when a woman is treated with the real spirit of equality with a man. Any system treating a woman with indignity, inequity and inequality or discrimination invites a wrath of the Constitution.

                                                  – Dipak Misra, CJI and A.M. Khanwilkar ,J.

Supreme Court: The 5-Judge Constitution Bench has held section 497 IPC and Section 198 (2) CrPC to be unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15 (1) and 21 of the Constitution. CJ Dipak Misra delivered the leading judgment for himself and A.M. Khanwilkar, J. While R.F. Nariman, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ., each delivered their separate concurring opinions.

Before the Supreme court, in the writ petition, was the constitutional validity of Section 497 IPC which criminalizes adultery and Section 198 (2) CrPC which provides for offences against marriages. Petitioner submitted that the provision by its very nature is arbitrary and invited the frown of Article 14 of the constitution.

CJ Dipak Misra (for himself and A.M. Khanwilkar) stated that on a reading of the provision, it is demonstrable that women are subordinated to men in as much as it lays down that when there is connivance or the consent of the man (husband), there is no offense. This treats the woman as a chattel. It treats her as the property of man and totally subservient to the will of the master. It is the reflection of the social dominance that was prevalent when the penal provision was drafted. It was also noted that the section doesn’t bring within its purview an extramarital relationship with the unmarried woman or a widow. It treats husband of the women to be a person aggrieved for the offense punishable under Section 497. It does not treat the wife of the adulterer as an aggrieved person. In regard to dignity to women and gender equality, it was observed that Section 497 curtails equality to and dignity of women by creating invidious distinctions based on gender stereotypes which creates a dent in the individuality of women. Besides, the emphasis on the element of connivance or consent of the husband tantamount to subordination of women. Therefore we have no hesitation in holding that the same offends Article 21 of the constitution.

In the words of the Court, “treating adultery an offense, we are disposed to think, would tantamount o the State entering into real private realm. Under the existing provision, the husband is treated as an aggrieved person and the wife is ignored as a victim. Presently the provision is reflective of a tripartite labyrinth. A situation maybe conceived of where equality of status and the right to file a case maybe conferred on the wife. In either situation, the whole scenario is extremely private.”

R.F. Nariman, J. In his concurring opinion referred to various religious testaments and texts as also law and judgments of various foreign jurisdictions. He observed that the ostensible object of Section 497, being to protect and preserve the sanctity of marriage, is not, in fact, the object of Section 497 IPC. The sanctity of marriage can be utterly destroyed by a married man having sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman or a widow. Also, if the husband consents or connives at such sexual intercourse, the offence is not committed, thereby showing that it is not sanctity of marriage which is sought to be protected and preserved, but a proprietary right of a husband. Secondly, no deterrent effect has been shown to exist, or ever to have existed, which may be a legitimate consideration for a State enacting criminal law. Also, manifest arbitrariness is writ large even in cases where the offender happens to be a married woman whose marriage has broken down, as a result of which she no longer cohabits with her husband, and may, in fact, have obtained a decree for judicial separation against her husband, preparatory to a divorce being granted. If, during this period, she has sex with another man, the other man is immediately guilty of the offence.

Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, J. also referred to foreign judgments and distinguished authors. Section 497 IPC is destructive of and deprives a woman of her agency, autonomy and dignity. If the ostensible object of the law is to protect the ‘institution of marriage’, it provides no justification for not recognising the agency of a woman whose spouse is engaged in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. She can neither complain nor is the fact that she is in a marital relationship with a man of any significance to the ingredients of the offence. The law also deprives the married woman who has engaged in a sexual act with another man, of her agency. She is treated as the property of her husband. That is why no offence of adultery would be made out if her husband were to consent to her sexual relationship outside marriage. Worse still, if the spouse of the woman were to connive with the person with whom she has engaged in sexual intercourse, the law would blink. Section 497 is thus founded on the notion that a woman by entering upon marriage loses, so to speak, her voice, autonomy and agency. manifest arbitrariness is writ large on the provision.

Indu Malhotra, J., the only woman on the Bench traced the origin of the word adultery from the French language; and discussed the doctrine of coverture, historical background of Section 497 and contemporary international jurisprudence. She observed that the Section is replete with anomalies and incongruities which renders it liable to be struck down as arbitrary and discriminatory.

Resultantly, Section 497 IPC and Section 198(2) CrPC were struck down. And the decisions in Sowmithri Vishnu v. Union of India, 1985 Supp SCC 137 and V. Revathi v. Union of India, (1988) 2 SCC 72 were overruled. Justice Malhotra, in her opinion, delivered, also held W. Kalyani v. State, (2012) 1 SCC 358 as overruled. The petition was accordingly disposed of. [Joseph Shine v. Union of India,(2019) 3 SCC 39, decided on 27-09-2018]

Hot Off The PressNews

Supreme Court: A five-Judge Constitution Bench consisting of CJ Dipak Misra, R.F Nariman, A.M Khanwilkar, Dr D.Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ., pronounced the verdict for reconsideration of the judgments on the constitutional validity of Section 497 IPC that brings adultery into the box of criminalisation.

Legal subordination of one sex by another is wrong. Social progression of women and views of Justice Nariman in Triple Talaq case considered. Adultery can be grounds for dissolution of marriage: CJ Dipak Misra

CJ and Khanwilkar J.,  said that mere adultery cannot be a crime, but if any aggrieved spouse commits suicide because of life partner’s adulterous relation, then if evidence produced, it could be treated as an abetment to suicide

Section 497 of the Penal Code is unconstitutional: CJ Dipak Misra

R F Nariman J.: Concurred with the opinion of CJ Dipak Misra. Section 497 of IPC has lost its rationale. It is manifestly arbitrary.

Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, J. : Section 497 is based on a notion that a woman loses her agency upon marriage. Human sexuality is essential aspect of identity of an individual.

Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, J. Section 497 is based on gender stereotypes. Violative of Article 15. Also violative of Articles 14 and 21. Declared as unconstitutional.

Indu Malhotra J., : Section 497 IPC makes two classification. Who can prosecute and who can be prosecuted. Law that perpetuate stereotypes and institutionalises discrimination is unconstitutional. Section 497 IPC is violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution and therefore struck down.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 5-Judge Constitution bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, Dr DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ., commenced with the day 2 on the Constitutional validity of Section 497 IPC hearing in regard to “Adultery”.

Learned Counsel Kaleeswaram began with the arguments and placed his first argument that adultery is historically and politically significant, by further quoting Deborah that “Adultery is bad but imprisoning for the act of adultery is worse. Making adultery ground for divorce is right but for penalizing is wrong.”

Indu Malhotra J., If there is consent of the husband, then there is no adultery which is absurd. This is another indicator of gender bias in that woman is considered chattel.

Dr DY Chandrachud J., If a married man has sex with an unmarried woman it is not adultery but does it still not affect the sanctity of marriage.

RF Nariman J. to Kaleeswaram: Lord Macaulay did not want inclusion of this Section.

CJ Dipak Misra: In the institution of marriage which is built by two pillars. The parties are equally responsible for the commission of an Act.

Advocate Kaleeswaram argued that Section 497 IPC is indirectly discriminatory towards women as the wife of an adulterous man suffers and she can’t even file a complaint against it.

Dr DY Chandrachud J.,  Offence of Bigamy under Section 494 IPC is gender neutral and women can also be liable.

Further, Advocate Meenakshi Arora began with her arguments and stated that moral reprehensibility is not a ground to make adultery a criminal offence.  She in continuation to her arguments stated that “The jurisprudence behind adultery was no different. The object was not to protect bodily integrity of woman but to protect man’s control over wife’s sexuality.”

Dr DY Chandrachud J., “De-criminalising adultery is not licensing adultery.”

On the conclusion of Advocate Meenakshi Arora’s arguments, Advocate Sunil Fernandes began with his set of arguments and stated that “Union of India has submitted that Section 497 IPC has the object of preserving sanctity of marriage. But it does not penalise a husband for having sex with an unmarried woman or widow though that hits the sanctity of marriage.”

Dr DY Chandrachud stated that “The right to say ‘no’ should be there after marriage as well.”

The matter is put up for further hearing on 07-08-2018. [Joseph Shine v. Union of India, WP (Crl.) No. 194 of 2017, order dated 02-08-2018]

[Source: https://twitter.com/TheLeaflet_in]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Division Bench comprising of I.P. Mukerji and Amrita Sinha, JJ., allowed an appeal filed by the husband against the order of District Judge who directed him to pay permanent alimony of Rs 14 lakhs to the respondent wife.

Marriage between the parties to the appeal was dissolved by a decree passed by a District Judge in a suit filed by the husband under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The suit was allowed against the wife on grounds of adultery and desertion. It was proved that the wife was in an adulterous relationship with a junior colleague of the husband. The wife filed an application for permanent alimony under Section 25, which was allowed by the District Judge and the order was passed as mentioned above. Aggrieved by the said order, the husband filed the present appeal.

The High Court perused Section 25 and found that grant of permanent alimony is subject to conditions. If at the time of deciding an application under the section, the wife is unchaste or has remarried, then the court may deny to grant the application. In the present case, the Court found that the wife was living in adultery which is unchaste conduct. Such conduct of the wife disentitled her from receiving any amount A permanent alimony and maintenance under Section 25. However, the husband was directed to pay 5 lakhs against maintenance of their son. The appeal was, thus, disposed of in above terms. [Ashutosh Bandhopadhyay v. Mukta Bandhopadhyay,2018 SCC OnLine Cal 5100, dated 31-07-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 5-Judge Constitution Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and Rohinton Fali Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, Dr DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ., commenced with the proceedings on reconsideration of the judgments on the Constitutional validity of Section 497 IPC that brings adultery into the box of criminalization.

The 3-Judge Bench of CJI Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar and Dr DY Chandrachud, JJ. had referred the said matter to the Constitution Bench in Joseph Shine v. Union of India, (2018) 2 SCC 189 on 05-01-2018. In the mentioned case, the bench was of the opinion that Section 497 IPC creates a dent on the individual identity of the woman as:

the fulcrum of the offence is destroyed once the consent or the connivance of the husband is established. Viewed from the said scenario, the provision really creates a dent on the individual independent identity of a woman when the emphasis is laid on the connivance or the consent of the husband. This tantamounts to subordination of a woman where the Constitution confers equal status. A time has come when the society must realise that a woman is equal to a man in every field.”

The Supreme Court has put up the matter for further hearing on 02-08-2018 after partly hearing the matter today. [Joseph Shine v. Union of India,  2018 SCC OnLine SC 783, order dated 01-08-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Noticing that there is a need to reconsider the earlier judgments on the Constitutional validity of Section 497 IPC, regard being had to the social progression, perceptual shift, gender equality and gender sensitivity, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ referred the matter to the Constitution Bench.

The Court took note of the rulings of various judgment of the Supreme Court including Yusuf Abdul Aziz v. State of Bombay, 1954 SCR 930 and Sowmithri Vishnu v. Union of India and Another, (1985) Suppl. SCC 137, wherin it was held that the impugned provision does not violate Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution as there is a:

“reverse discrimination in ‘favour’ of the woman rather than ‘against’ her.”

The Court, in earlier judgments, had held that Section 497 only punishes the ‘outsider’ who breaks into the matrimonial home and occasions the violation of sanctity of the matrimonial tie by developing an illicit relationship with one of the spouses. It was hence said that Section 497:

“does not arm the two spouses to hit each other with the weapon of criminal law. That is why neither the husband can prosecute the wife and send her to jail nor can the wife prosecute the husband and send him to jail. There is no discrimination based on sex.”

The 3-judge bench, hence, was of the opinion that the provision seems quite archaic and especially, when there is a societal progress. The Court said that, apart from that there has to be a different kind of focus on the affirmative right conferred on women under Article 15 of the Constitution.

On 08.12.2017, the Court had said that the provision creates a dent on the individual identity of woman as:

“the fulcrum of the offence is destroyed once the consent or the connivance of the husband is established. Viewed from the said scenario, the provision really creates a dent on the individual independent identity of a woman when the emphasis is laid on the connivance or the consent of the husband. This tantamounts to subordination of a woman where the Constitution confers equal status. A time has come when the society must realise that a woman is equal to a man in every field.”

The matter will now be heard by a Constitution Bench. [Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 2, order dated 05.01.2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Agreeing to hear the petition that sought for examining Section 497 of Penal Code, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ issued notice to Central Government 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.

Section 497 IPC, that deals with the offence of adultery, says that a man who has sexual intercourse with the wife of another man, without that man’s consent, will be punished for the offence of adultery. The said provision, however, expressly states that the woman will not be punished for the offence.

The Court noticed that the provision grants relief to the wife by treating her as a victim. Hence, when an offence is committed by both of them, one is liable for the criminal offence but the other is absolved. The Court said that the provision:

“seems to be based on a societal presumption. Ordinarily, the criminal law proceeds on gender neutrality but in this provision, as we perceive, the said concept is absent. That apart, it is to be seen when there is conferment of any affirmative right on women, can it go to the extent of treating them as the victim, in all circumstances, to the peril of the husband.”

Not only this, the Court also noticed that the provision creates a dent on the individual identity of woman as:

“the fulcrum of the offence is destroyed once the consent or the connivance of the husband is established. Viewed from the said scenario, the provision really creates a dent on the individual independent identity of a woman when the emphasis is laid on the connivance or the consent of the husband. This tantamounts to subordination of a woman where the Constitution confers equal status. A time has come when the society must realise that a woman is equal to a man in every field.”

Noticing that the provision, prima facie, appears to be quite archaic, the Court issued notice to Centre returnable within 4 weeks. [Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1447, order dated 08.12.2017]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

High Court of Kenya:  The petition was filed pertaining to the issue of dissolution of marriage on the grounds of cruelty and adultery. Petitioner had submitted the marriage certificate as an evidence to prove her marriage with the respondent. It has also been stated by the petitioner that, following their marriage they initially cohabited in Magongo and later moved to Nairobi, where they stayed for 6 months after which they returned to Mombasa. E N was the child out of petitioner and respondent’s marriage, along with two other sons who were in their twenties from respondent’s first marriage.

Petitioner has contended that she was subjected to cruelty and also respondent was unable to support her to the amount of providing food too. The reason put forward for not being able to support the petitioner as stated by her was, that he had provided Kshs. 30,000/ for the delivery of their son. Incidents of beating up the petitioner were also pointed out.

Further, this matter was reported at the Changamwe Police Station, where P3 form was issued and petitioner averred that the other two sons of the respondent from the first marriage had also threatened her with rape. Though the petitioner has strongly accused respondent of adultery, she has no evidence of that, as she has not seen any women with the respondent. Finally, on 13.11.2011, she left the matrimonial home.

Respondent in his contentions states that he had never treated the petitioner with cruelty and instead claimed of being tortured by the petitioner of her endless demands which were not affordable on the part of the respondent. Respondent in turn  accused the petitioner of being in an extra-marital affair and also that he did not want the divorce.

Judge M. Thande observed that according to Section 65 of the Marriage Act, 2014, mental and physical cruelty is one of the grounds upon which a Christian marriage may be dissolved. The petitioner had given sufficient evidence by submitting the P3 form which shows the assault that took place on 13.6.14, whereas the respondent failed to rebut the evidence of P3 form, for which Court found the respondent guilty of cruelty. As both the parties had failed to submit any evidence in regard to the accusation of adultery,  that stood cancelled on the part of both the parties. Finally, the Court directed that the marriage solemnized on 15.8.09  be dissolved and the decree to be made absolute within one month. [I M W v. L W M S, Divorce Cause No. 18 of 2015, decided on 14.7.2017]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Deciding the issue of proving infidelity of a spouse, the bench of J.S. Khehar and R.K. Agrawal, JJ held that DNA test can be conducted to determine the veracity of the allegations of adultery. However, considering the fact that the said test will automatically determine the issue of legitimacy, the Court held that the presumption of legitimacy as given under Section 112 of the Evidence Act, 1872 will not be disturbed and that if the direction to hold such a test can be avoided, it should be so avoided as the legitimacy of the child should not be put to peril.

In the present case, the husband has sought divorce from his wife due to alleged infedility by her and had also named the person has fathered the child born to his wife, thereby making an application for DNA test to prove the paternity of the child in order to prove the alleged infidelity. The Court, hence explained the importance of DNA test by stating that DNA testing is the most legitimate and scientifically perfect means, which the husband could use, to establish his assertion of infidelity. The Court also said that DNA test should also simultaneously be taken as the most authentic, rightful and correct means also with the wife, for her to rebut the assertions made by the husband, and to establish that she had not been unfaithful, adulterous or disloyal.

The Court, hence, held that the wife shall be given the liberty to comply with or disregard the order of DNA test and in case, she declines to undergo the said test, the Court shall draw presumption as per Illustration (h) of Section 114 of the Evidence Act, 1872. Dipanwita Roy v. Ronobroto Roy, Civil Appeal No. 9744 of 2014, decided on 15.10.2014