New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said a woman in an illicit relationship cannot be punished for adultery despite being an abettor in the crime though the husband is liable for punishment.
A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and R M Lodha quashed
the case of adultery registered against Kalyani by another
woman Sailaja who alleged that her husband was in a illicit
relationship with the former.
Though Kalyani had challenged the registration of case
against her by police under sections 497 (adultery) and 341
(wrongful restraint), the Andhra Pradesh High Court dismissed
her plea, following which she appealed in the apex court.
Interpreting Section 497, the apex court said, "Whoever
has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows
or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man,
without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual
intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of
the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with
imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend
to five years, or with fine, or with both.
“In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an
The court said the provision is currently under criticism
from certain quarters for showing a strong gender bias.
"It makes the position of a married woman almost as a
property of her husband. But in terms of the law as it stands,
it is evident from a plain reading of the section that only a
man can be proceeded against and punished for the offence of
adultery," it said.
"Indeed, the section provides expressly that the wife
cannot be punished even as an abettor. Thus, the mere fact
that the appellant is a woman makes her completely immune to
the charge of adultery and she cannot be proceeded against for
that offence," the court said.
"All the allegations in the complaint taken on their face
value do not make out any case against the accused. We are,
therefore, satisfied that the proceedings against the
appellant are equally fit to be quashed and the high court was
in error in not allowing the quashing application filed by the
appellant," it added.