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    Section-497, Indian Penal Code

    Reading the title one would wonder why only men should be more scared of having extramarital affairs and not women. It is undoubtedly sexist and the answer for it lies in the law.

    To understand it, let’s find out more about this law. Basically, to make it an offence of adultery as per section 497 of Indian Penal Code:

    1. A man must have sexual intercourse with a woman whom he knows to be the wife of another man.
    2. Such sexual intercourse is without the consent or connivance (overlooking/voluntary neglect) of the husband of that woman.
    3. The sexual intercourse is done with the consent of the woman, thus it is not rape.
    4. But consent of woman doesn’t make it a lesser crime for the man.

    Once the above points are proved, the man will have the criminal liability under this section and will be punished. The punishment under this section is the imprisonment for five years or fine or both.

    On the other hand, the woman is free from any sort of criminal liability and shall not be punishable even as an abettor, though it can be a ground for divorce against the woman.

    Why do we need to change this law?

    The point here is, that the man is legally answerable in the act done with mutual consent and woman is free. The law thus is completely irrational keeping in mind the modern ethos of equality.

    Actually, the Law of Adultery is a 157 years old law which is still in existence and which holds only man as the offender and the woman and her husband as victim.

    Apart from that, the word connivance of husband” has no relevance at all in present perspective as it is inappropriate. Adultery per se must be punishable offence either by man or woman.

    Constitutional Validity of Section 497, Indian Penal Code

    In 2017, The Hon’ble Supreme Court agreed to entertain a Public Interest Litigation challenging the gender discriminatory provision and examine the constitutional validity of this archaic law. It said that, “Time has come when the society must realise that a woman is equal to a man in every respect.”

    A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said, “Prima facie, on a perusal of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, we find that it grants relief to the wife by treating her as a victim. It is also worthy to note that when an offence is committed by both of them, one is liable for criminal offence but the other is absolved.”

    To match with the times we run into, we always need to review and revise our laws. There are laws which seem to have no relevance now and need to be amended according to contemporary situations. Law of adultery is one such example.

    This law labels men as adulterer and women as victims. The lacunas and loopholes in this law make it very important for it to be amended to assure the equal status constitution has given to man and woman.  If you want to know more about it please call 9828065532 or write a mail on contactus@lexcarts.com. We will be happy to find solutions for you.

    Author: Aparna Praveen Kumar

    Aparna is a chief legal advisor at Lexcarts Technologies. She has experience of interviewing senior high court judges and legal personalities. Her articles got published in Hindustan Times and other leading national dailies. At Lexcarts, she furnishes advice on all legal issues and is fully devoted to legal ethics.

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