New Delhi: The Supreme Court in a landmark justice today scrapped the 158-year old Victorian law on adultery, saying that it (the law) is unconstitutional as it only punished a man for an affair but not the woman, treating her as "property".
The Supreme Court today read that “adultery is no longer a crime in India even though, "without a shadow of a doubt", it can be grounds for divorce.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra while calling the Victorian law on adultery as arbitrary, said: "A man having sexual intercourse with a married woman is not a crime."
The five-member constitution bench said making adultery a crime is retrograde and would mean "punishing unhappy people".
It may be mentioned that according to the adultery law in India, any man who has an affair with a woman "without the consent or connivance of" her husband is punishable with five years in jail or fine or both.
The Chief Justice further reiterated that "There can't be any social license which destroys a home. The wife can't be treated as property and it's time to say that husband is not the master of a woman.”
The Supreme Court also was of the view that since most countries have abolished laws against adultery, it is high time to make amendments and scrap the Victorian law.
While reading out the victim, the Chief Justice said, “The uniqueness of the Indian constitution is that it includes "the I, me and you" and "any law which affects individual dignity, equity of women in a civilized society invites the wrath of the Constitution."
Earlier, following the filing of the petition, the Centre opposed the scrapping of the law as it said that adultery must remain a crime so that the sanctity of marriage can be protected.
In earlier hearings, the top court had questioned the government how the law preserved the "sanctity" of marriage when the extramarital affair becomes non-punishable if the woman's husband stands by her.
The Chief Justice said today that adultery might not be the cause of an unhappy marriage; it could be the result of an unhappy marriage.
It may further be noted that the Supreme Court had earlier upheld the law against adultery thrice. Last year, the court was of the view that the laws on adultery treat a woman as her husband's subordinate and that the time has come for society to realize that a woman is as equal to a man in every respect.