First 377, now 497 – the Supreme Court of India passed two landmark judgements this month.
Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which penalised a man for having sex with another’s wife without his consent but entailed no punishment for the woman, has been unanimously struck down by a five-judge constitution bench. The court also declared Section 198 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which deals with Adultery, unconstitutional.
Under Section 497, adultery was criminal only if the abettor had sex with another’s wife without consenting the husband. The law was deemed sexist, where women were seen as man’s property and only the men were punished.
Here are a few important points they made while pronouncing the judgement:
- It’s time to say husband is not the master.
- Legal sovereignty of one sex over another is wrong.
- Any system or law which affects individual dignity of women in a civilized society invites the wrath of the Constitution.
- Adultery law is absolutely manifestly arbitrary.
- The beauty of our Constitution is that it includes “I, me and you”.
- Adultery law affects the Fundamental Right to Life and Personal Liberty of a woman.
- Adultery can be a ground for divorce but not a criminal offence.
- Adultery dents the individuality of women.
- Women can’t be asked to think and do according to the will of society.
- Mere adultery can’t be a crime, unless it attracts the scope of abetment to suicide under Section 306 of the IPC.
- Mere adultery can’t be a criminal offence. It is a matter of privacy.
- Dignity of individual in preamble is a facet of 21. What will denude the status of woman should be struck down as it will cry foul of Constitution.
- Adultery law deprives a woman of agency and autonomy and dignity.
- Adultery law is destructive of woman’s dignity.
- The law in adultery is a codified rule of patriarchy.
- The notion that a woman loses her voice, autonomy after entering marriage is arbitrary.
- Respect for sexual autonomy must be emphasized. Marriage does not preserve ceiling of autonomy.
- Adultery law perpetrates subordinate nature of woman in a marriage.
- Adultery law institutionalises discrimination.
- Society attributes impossible attributes to a woman, raising woman to a pedestal is one part of such attribution.