“Husband is not the master of wife” says India’s Chief Justice, strikes down adultery law

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Supreme Court of India

New Delhi– In yet another landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised adultery after striking down a British era law, Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, terming it as unconstitutional, archaic and manifestly arbitrary, with one judge saying women can’t be treated as “chattel”.

“Mere adultery can’t be a criminal offence. It is a matter of privacy. Husband is not the master of wife. Women should be treated with equality along with men,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra (Photo courtesy: The Tribune)

Most countries have abolished adultery as a crime. “It shouldn’t be a criminal offence, other people are also involved in it,” Misra said, reading out the judgement, also on behalf of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar.

Earlier this month the apex court had decriminalised same sex offence under Section 377 of the IPC, which was another British era law.

Any discrimination shall invite the wrath of the Constitution, the Chief Justice said, adding that a woman cannot be asked to think about the way society desires her to do.

Justice Rohinton F. Nariman, reading out his judgement, said: “Women can’t be treated as chattel”.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in a concurring but separate judgment said society has two sets of morality in sexual behaviour — one for women and another for men.

Society treating women as embodiment of virtue leads to things like honour killings, he said, adding that the archaic law is against dignity, liberty and sexual autonomy guaranteed under the Constitution. (IANS)

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