The Supreme Court Thursday declared as unconstitutional the penal provision on adultery.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and R F Nariman held that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code dealing with the offence of adultery is unconstitutional.
"We declare Sec 497 IPC and Sec 198 of CrPC dealing with prosecution of offences against marriage as unconstitutional," said the CJI and Justice Khanwilkar.
Justice Nariman termed Section 497 as archaic law and concurred with the CJI, Justice Khanwilkar saying that Section 497 is violative of right to equality and right to equal opportunity to women.
The apex court is dealing with section 497 of the 158-year-old Indian Penal Code says: "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 CJI, which wrote the judgement for himself and Justice A M Khanwilkar, said that equality is the governing parameter of the Constitution.
The court said any provision treating women with inequality is not constitutional and it's time to say that husband is not the master of woman.
Chronology of adultery case
The CJI said section 497 of the IPC is manifestly arbitrary the way it deals with women.
The bench said adultery can be treated as civil wrong for dissolution of marriage.
There can't be any social licence which destroys a home, the CJI said, adding that adultery should not be a criminal offence.
The court said adultery can be a ground for civil wrong, a ground for divorce but not criminal offence.
Presently, the offence of adultery entails a maximum punishment of five years, or with fine, or both.