A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court will be taking a decision on whether women can be punished for adultery in India.
Earlier Verdicts Must Be Revisited
Under the provisions of a 19th century criminal law currently applicable, only men can be punished for adultery.
The apex court has stated that keeping in mind social progression, gender equity and sensitivity the earlier verdicts related to this issue must be revisited.
The Supreme Court bench noted that it doesn’t “agree with the 1954 and 1985 judgement of this court which said IPC 497 is not discriminatory against women.” According to Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code only the man is to be treated as an offender while the woman is always considered as a victim.
Women Must Be Considered Equal For Every Offence
The top court has said that it will re-examine the validity of these provision as women cannot be treated differently for criminal offences, “when in every other offence there is no gender bias.”
The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the centre to respond to a petition filed by Joesph Shine an activist who noted that earlier court verdicts had upheld the existing provision and had left it to the parliament to change the law which has however not happened.
Under the Indian Penal Code, a “consensual” sexual intercourse between a man and a married woman is banned unless it has the consent of the husband as well. But in such cases, only the man can be prosecuted on the husband’s complaint, but not the wife.
The offence carries the penalty of five years of jail time but the government does not track the number of cases so far registered under this law.
Adultery was not initially listed as a crime in the first draft of the penal law which was developed by a panel headed by Thomas Babington Macaulay in 1837 but subsequently, a decade later, another panel pushed for its inclusion.