Section 497 based on women as chattel: 10 key SC observations on scrapping Adultery law

CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Khanwilkar said: "We declare Section 497 IPC and Section 198 of CrPC dealing with prosecution of offences against marriage as unconstitutional".  

Section 497 based on women as chattel: 10 key SC observations on scrapping Adultery law

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday declared Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional saying that the penal provision on adultery was manifestly arbitrary and dents the individuality of women. 

What the 5 judge bench said:

CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Khanwilkar said: "We declare Section 497 IPC and Section 198 of CrPC dealing with prosecution of offences against marriage as unconstitutional".  Justice Nariman termed Section 497 as archaic law and concurred with the CJI and Justice Khanwilkar, saying that the penal provision is violative of the rights to equality and equal opportunity to women. Justice Chandrachud said Section 497 destroys and deprives women of dignity. Justice Indu Malhotra, the lone woman judge on the bench, said that Section 497 is clear violation of fundamental rights granted in the Constitution and there is no justification for continuation of the provision.

Here are the top 10 highlights from the unanimous verdict of the 5-judge SC bench on the 'archaic' law:

- Adultery might not cause of an unhappy marriage, but it could be result of an unhappy marriage, the CJI said.
- In case of adultery, criminal law expects people to be loyal which is a command which gets into the realm of privacy, CJI Dipak Misra said.
- Adultery can be ground for civil issues including dissolution of marriage but it cannot be a criminal offence, CJI Dipak Misra said. 
- Any provision treating woman with inequality is not Constitutional, CJI Dipak Misra said.
- Mere adultery can't be a crime, unless it attracts the scope of Section 306 (abatement to suicide) of the IPC, CJI Dipak Misra said.
- Section 497 perpetuates subordinate status of women, denies dignity, sexual autonomy, and is based on gender stereotypes, Justice DY Chandrachud said adding that it should be struck down for violation of Articles 14, 21.
- Section 497 based on women as chattel, seeks to control sexuality of woman, hits the autonomy and dignity of woman, Justice DY Chandrachud said.
- Ancient notions of man being perpetrator and woman being victim no longer holds good, Justice Rohinton Nariman said
- Women can’t be asked to think and do according to the will of society
- Respect for sexual autonomy must be emphasised. Marriage does not preserve ceiling of autonomy. Section 497 perpetrates subordinate nature of woman in a marriage, Justice Chandrachud said.

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