Section 497 Verdict Root Analysis : Extramarital Affairs No More a Crime

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Verdict

Here comes yet another historic verdict of the year 2k18 by the highest judiciary if the country. The verdict is about the 158 years old, section 497 of IPC where extramarital affairs are decriminalised. Earlier this month, the top court decriminalised the same-sex marriages and similar unnatural offences and marked a date in this history. Both the two amended sections of IPC were the laws of the British era and had been abolished by most of the developed and developing countries.

Here we have a short analysis of the issue entitled which has in the past two days become the talk of the town. Do read to know more.

Section 497 of IPC has been struck off as unconstitutional. This section was about the laws which considered the married men offensive who would have an extramarital affair. The century and a half years old law would punish the married man who would get involved in a sexual relationship with another married woman without the consent of her husband. These offences can still remain to be the ground of divorce and marriage dissolution but cannot be considered as a crime.

The judging panel headed by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra on Thursday, September 27, 2018, made a statement saying “When parties to a marriage lose their moral commitment to the relationship, it creates a dent in the marriage and it will depend upon the parties how to deal with the situation. Some may exonerate and live together and some may seek divorce… A punishment is unlikely to establish commitment.”

Considering extramarital affairs to be the ground of marriage dissolution, the five judges panel said that if due to adultery act by one of the partners, the other commits suicide, the culprit would be processed under the criminal offence of abetting suicide. The apex court of India had put up the section 497 on the touchstones of privacy, individual’s autonomy and personal choice as yardsticks before finalising the verdict on the issue.

Along with the decision of striking down the adultery law, SC court also ordered the country about women saying that the women can’t be treated as chattel, a personal possession, owing to the law of equality.

The SC CJI writing down the judgement said, “The offence and the deeming definition of an aggrieved person, as we find, is absolutely and manifestly arbitrary as it does not even appear to be rational and it can be stated with emphasis that it confers a licence on the husband to deal with life as he likes which is extremely excessive and disproportionate…”

With a hope to bring changes in the thinking pattern of the society, CJI also said, “…That woman is treated as subordinate to men inasmuch as it lays down that 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.”

“We are of the view that there cannot be a patriarchal monarchy over the daughter or, for that matter, husband’s monarchy over the wife. That apart, there cannot be a community exposition of masculine dominance.” justice Dipak Misra Said.

Justice Nariman explaining the basis which requires the law to be struck down said that the women are not chattel and cannot be treated as a possession by her master, the husband.

The only thing we need to watch over now is, whether this historic verdict would succeed in bringing about the change in the societal thoughts or would it prove out to be a bane for the society. Let’s just hope and step ahead to make this change a positive one.

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