September 27, 2018: Joseph Shine vs Union of India, Supreme Court declared section 497 IPC the law against adultery by men to be unconstitutional
The apex court’s five-judge Constitution bench was unanimous in striking down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code dealing with the offence of adultery, holding it as manifestly arbitrary, archaic and violative of the rights to equality and equal opportunity to women.
The issue:- Adultery undoubtedly is a moral wrong qua the spouse and the family. The issue is whether there is a sufficient element of wrongfulness to society in general, in order to bring it within the ambit of criminal law?
The status: -Under Section 497, it is only the male-paramour who is punishable for the offence of adultery. The woman who is pari delicto with the adulterous male, is not punishable, even as an abettor. The adulterous woman is excluded solely on the basis of gender, and cannot be prosecuted for adultery. [Read the JUDGMENT]
Govt Stand :-Centre favours the retention of penal law on adultery, says it is a public wrong which causes mental and physical injury to the spouse, children and the family.