- A plea wants law scrapped, saying it does not treat men and women equally
- The Victorian law has no provisions for punishment for women
- A five-judge constitution bench is expected to hear the case
Adultery must remain a crime so the sanctity of marriage can be protected, the Centre told the Supreme Court today after a petition called for the law to be scrapped as it does not treat men and women equally. The Victorian law punishes a man for an affair but there is no punishment for women, who are seen as subservient to their husbands.
The petitioner argued that adultery should not be a crime even for men.
Pushing for the petition to be dismissed, the centre responded,"Don't decriminalise adultery, it will be detrimental to the intrinsic Indian ethos."
A five-judge constitution bench is expected to hear the case after settling the petitions challenging the ban on gay sex.
The Centre left it to the Supreme Court to take a call on the British-era ban on consensual gay sex.
In January, while agreeing to hear the case, the court said earlier verdicts would have to be revisited in view of social progression, gender equity and sensitivity.
"Scrapping Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code and the Section 198(2) Criminal will prove to be detrimental to the intrinsic Indian ethos, which gives paramount importance to the institution and sanctity of marriage," the Centre said.
The law says "no person other than the husband of the woman shall be deemed to be aggrieved" by adultery. In his absence, anyone else who "had the care of the woman when such offence was committed" may file a complaint on behalf of the husband.
"The law was enacted to protect and safeguard the sanctity of marriage, keeping in mind the unique structure and culture of the Indian society. The decriminalisation of adultery will result in weakening the sanctity of a marital bond and will result in laxity in the marital bond," the Centre said in its affidavit.
Earlier, the Supreme Court upheld the law against adultery thrice. Last year, the top court said the laws on adultery treat a woman as her husband's subordinate and time has come for society to realise that a woman is as equal to a man in every respect.