The Supreme Court in a path-breaking verdict in 2018 decriminalized adultery and declared all its provisions unconstitutional as it diminishes the value of women, but maintained that it continues to be a ground for divorce.
The Centre in its interim plea based on the PIL of Joseph Shine sought clarification and a direction that the judgment should not be made applicable to the rules governing the army forces which take action on personnel involved in adulterous relationships.
The Centre said that decriminalizing adultery will cause instability in the armed forces as the officers are expected to stay far away from the family for a long period.
The Centre in its plea stated that the army Jawans are posted in the forward inhospitable areas and in their absence, their families are taken care of at the base by field unit JCO officers. While the Jawans are serving the Nation on the forefront, the Centre held that they should not doubt any adulterous activity by the caring officers.
The Government further mentioned that army officer personnel can be dismissed from service in case of any unbecoming conduct with his colleague’s wife for committing adultery.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman, K.M Joseph, and Navin Sinha issued a notice to the centre’s plea and referred the matter to the Chief Justice of India to list to a five-judge bench.
Section 497 of the IPC states that
“Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and who knows or has a reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery”
Adultery was punishable with 5 years of jail or fine or in some cases, both were given.
While striking down Section 497 the court said that it was an extremely archaic law that denies equal opportunity to women. It further added that marriage does not mean that an individual cannot have sexual autonomy for others.
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