Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of adultery law

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the government in a petition challenging the constitutionality of Section 497 of the IPC. The three-judge bench noted that only the man with whom adultery is committed is criminally liable under the provision, which exempts the wife from criminal liability. The bench also noted the discrimination between husband and wife, given that only the husband can initiate action for his wife’s adultery, but the wife cannot initiate criminal action against her husband. Finally, alluding to the ‘consent clause’ of the section, which exempts the adulterer from criminal liability if the husband’s consent is proved, the bench opined that this amounts to ‘subordination of women,’ and thus needs to be tested against constitutionally guaranteed rights. The Supreme Court has previously upheld the constitutionality of this section in three different cases.

Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1447