Adultery no longer a Criminal offence says Supreme Court; Read Judgment summary here.

Dated: September 29, 2018

The Supreme Court on 27th October 2018 struck down the section 497, which criminalised adultery with a punishment up to five years or with a fine or with both.

The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.


  • All the judges delivered a concurring judgement. The judgement held Section 497 of the IPC to be “manifestly arbitrary”.


  • Section 497 punished a married man for having sex with wife of another man. But, if the act was performed with the consent of the husband of the other woman, it was exempted from punishment. Also, the provision did not treated the wife as abettor and hence was exempted from punishment.


  • Chief Justice Misra wrote in his judgment, “Any provision of law affecting individual dignity and equality of women invites wrath of constitution. It’s time to say that husband is not the master of wife. Legal sovereignty of one sex over other sex is wrong”


  • It was also held in the judgement that, section 497 violated a woman’s right to dignity, resulting in infringement of Article 21 of the Constitution of India.


  • Further it was held that, adultery can be a ground of divorce and other civil remedies. Not to forget, it was also mentioned that, if one of the spouse commits suicide aggrieved due to the act of adultery by the other, then the adulterous partner could be prosecuted for abetment of suicide under Section 306 of the IPC.


  • “Ancient notion of man being the perpetrator and woman being victim of adultery no longer holds good” observed Justice Nariman.


  • “Respect for sexual autonomy must be emphasized. Marriage does not preserve ceiling of autonomy 497 perpetrates subordinate nature of woman in a marriage”, these were his concluding remarks.


  • The judgment also struck down Section 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, allows the initiation of criminal proceedings for Adultery only at the instance of the husband of the adulteress, but the wife of the man party to the act of adultery cannot institute a complaint as a consequence of striking down of Section 497 IPC.


The full judgement can be read at:

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