What is Section 497 IPC

What is Section 497 IPC
Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code has become a hot topic following an important ruling by the Supreme Court which scrapped this law altogether. Here we discuss in length about this law and what it implied so far. Section 497 of the India Penal Code deals with adultery. The recent judgment by the Supreme Court overturned there earlier rulings that upheld that the said law was constitutional. As per the Supreme Court’s recent decision, Section 497 of IPC goes against the constitution of India and hence need to be scrapped altogether. The bench that pronounced the recent judgment consisted of five judges including the Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

Overview of Section 497 of IPC

Section 497 of IPC says it is a punishable offense for a man to have sexual intercourse with a married woman without the consent of her husband. The man committing such an offense can be imprisoned for five years or more and can also be asked to pay a fine.

Understanding ‘adultery’ in the legal context
The dictionary meaning of the term adultery reads thus, "adultery is a voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse".

The petitioners wish to address a few problems connected to Section 497 of IPC as explained hereunder.

One big concern regarding this law is that it does not appear to be gender-neutral. In case of any act of adultery committed, the law calls for punishing the man but not the woman involved.

Section 497 does not enable a woman to file a complaint against her husband when he has had sexual intercourse with another woman.

A number of people call this an anti-woman law since the law seems to reduce a woman as a mere object. As per what the said law implies, a man does not need the consent of the woman to have sexual intercourse with her. The law only says, the said act will not be a crime if the woman’s husband agrees for the act.

How the Supreme Court interpreted Section 497 of IPC

The judges have stated recently that the Section 497 seems outdated. In fact, it appears to violate the Articles 14 and 21 of the IPC.

While commenting on the said law, the justices remarked, "Adultery can be ground for civil issues including dissolution of marriage but it cannot be a criminal offence."

The bench also added further that Section 497 looked 'unconstitutional' as it violates the right to equality. There are no reasons whatsoever to continue this law that does not serve the intended purpose. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court upheld that adultery can be a valid ground for applying for divorce.

Talking at length about the law and the reasons for scrapping the law, Justice DY Chandrachud commented that Section 497 deprives women of their dignity. CJI Misra said, "Women must be treated with equality with men. Any discrimination shall invite wrath of Constitution. A woman can't be asked to think the way society desires."