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How Activists, Legal Experts Reacted to SC’s Judgment on Adultery

Legal experts welcomed the SC judgment and lauded the court for striking down a 150-year-old law.

Updated
India
3 min read
The Supreme Court on 27 September declared unconstitutional the penal provision on adultery.
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The Supreme Court on Thursday, 27 September, pronounced its judgment on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of Section 497 of the IPC, declaring as unconstitutional the penal provision on adultery. The court observed that the law was manifestly arbitrary and dents the individuality of women.

Legal experts and activists welcomed the judgment and lauded the court for striking down a 150 year old law.

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Rekha Sharma, the Chief of National Commission for Women, told News18 that she welcomes the order.

“I welcome the Supreme Court’s verdict as it was an outdated law which had to go away. It treated women like the property of husband and I’m really happy that it is gone now.”
Rekha Sharma

Petitioner’s lawyer Raj Kaleshwaram told ANI that he was extremely happy with the judgment.

“It is a monumental judgement. I am extremely happy with the judgment. The people of India should also be happy. The court has said that the section 497 of the Indian Penal Code is archaic and colonial, and it cannot stand the test of time or the test of the Constitution.”
Raj Kaleshwaram

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan called it a “fine judgement” that did away with an “antiquated” law.

Congress MP and president of women's wing of the party Sushmita Dev agreed with him.

Senior lawyer Harish Salve also praised the judgment, while reiterating the need to get rid of the older mindset that considered the wife as a property of her husband.

“It’s time we decriminalised personal conduct. Consensual sex can never be a crime in today’s day and age.... Relations only with married women count as adultery. What about relations with an unmarried man or woman? This was morality of those days where the wife was chattel. This mindset has to go.” 

Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said the judgment was in coherence with the progressive values of the 21st century.

“In a progressive evolution of the expansive human rights that are the hallmark of 21st century, the constitutional bench judgment of the Supreme Court is in tune with the spirit of the times... Anchored in the mandate of Article 14, which makes no allowance of distinction on the basis of gender, the court has come to its conclusion. To strike balance between different views on the matter, the court has said that adultery could be a matrimonial or civil wrong although there is no justification for making it a criminal offence.”
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Lawyer Jaiveer Shergill said it was a much needed judgment.

Social activist Ranjana Kumari appreciated the judgment. She said that the patriarchal control over women's bodies is unacceptable.

‘Where is The Sanctity of Marriage?’

However, Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal said decriminalising adultery completely is just going to add to the pain of women in the country.

“Totally disagree with the Supreme Court judgment on adultery. The judgment is anti-women. In a way, you have given a open general license to the people of this country to be in marriages but at the same time have illegitimate relationships.”

"What is the sanctity of marriage?" she asked.

Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury agreed with her.

"This is like criminalising the triple talaq law. They have done that but now the men will just abandon us or not give us talaq. They will have polygamy or nikah halala which creates hell for us as women. I am glad it's not a crime anymore but I do not see how it helps. The court should... give us clarity," she said.

(With PTI inputs.)

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