Gender equality in the punishment for adultery: Centre to Court

The Centre on Wednesday said that adultery should remain an offence so that the purity of the marriage doesn’t go and it must be protected. The law which exists says, as per the Indian Penal Code, a woman cannot be punished for the offence of adultery. Only a man who has consensual sexual intercourse with the wife of another man without his consent can be punished under this offence.

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A five-judge bench is expected to hear the case after settling the petitions challenging the ban on gay sex.

Scrapping Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code and the Section 198(2) Criminal Procedure Code, the Centre said, “will prove to be detrimental to the intrinsic Indian ethos which gives paramount importance to the institution and sanctity of marriage”.

The Section 198(2) in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 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.

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A man makes adultery an offence only for a man who has a relationship with somebody else’s wife but the wife is neither adulterous nor an abettor, while the man faces five year jail-term and fine. “It is societal presumption. Ordinarily, the criminal law works on the principle of gender neutrality but in this provision, ex facie, this concept is absent,” said the court.

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