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Military Can Take Action Against Officers Accused Of Adultery: Supreme Court

The Ministry of Defence had said that adultery by armed forces officers can cause 'instability' in the military services.

Supreme Court of India
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the Indian military can prosecute officers for adultery. 

The five-judge Supreme Court bench said the 2018 Joseph Shine judgement did not concern the armed forces which are governed by their separate acts — the Army Act, the Navy Act, and the Air Force Act. 

In 2018, the Supreme Court in decriminalised adultery in the Joseph Shine v Union of India case. The SC struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that dealt with the adultery. 

What's the case about?

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) sought the ability of prosecute adultery in the military as such acts can cause "instability" within the services.

In view of the aforesaid (2018) judgment, there will always be a concern in the minds of the army personnel who are operating far away from their families under challenging conditions about the family indulging in untoward activities," the application said.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had said the military should have a mechanism to act against officers found to have engaged in adultery. 

The SC in September said, "In uniformed services, discipline is of paramount importance. This is conduct that can shake up the life of officers. Everybody is ultimately dependent on the family as a unit of society. The integrity of society is based on the faithfulness of one spouse to another.

"This (adultery) is going to shake the discipline in the armed forces. Armed forces must have some kind of assurance that they will take action. How can you cite Joseph Shine (judgement) and say it cannot be." 

What's adultery judgement?

In 2018, the Supreme Court in decriminalised adultery in the Joseph Shine v Union of India case. The SC struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that dealt with the adultery. 

Section 497 defined adultery as: "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."

"The Supreme Court struck down Section 497 of the IPC on the grounds that it violated Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. The five Judge Bench unanimously, in four concurring judgments, held that the law was archaic, arbitrary and paternalistic, and infringed upon a woman’s autonomy, dignity, and privacy. Section 198(2) of the CrPC which allowed only a husband to bring a prosecution under Section 497 of the IPC was also struck down as unconstitutional," notes the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi.

(With PTI inputs)

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