SC declares penal provision on adultery unconstitutional : Five-judge bench strikes down anti-adultery law.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra struck down the 158-year-old law which made adultery a punishable offence and held that Section 497is unconstitutional.

Section 497 of the 158-year-old IPC says: “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery.” The offence of adultery entailed a maximum punishment of five years, or with fine, or both.

The CJI and Justice Khanwilkar said: “We declare Section 497 IPC and Section 198 of CrPC dealing with prosecution of offences against marriage as unconstitutional”.

In its judgement, the five-judge bench said that while adultery can be a basis for divorce, it is not an illegal offence unless it attracts the scope of Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the IPC.