The Supreme Court of India has absolutely made it clear that any adult woman of this country has the right to live the life of her choice. Be it the choice of dress, profession and life partner or other domains of individual choice. The Supreme Court has clearly stated “It needs no special emphasis to state that attaining the age of majority in an individual’s life has its own significance. She is entitled to make her choice. The courts cannot, as long as the choice remains, assume the role of parens patriae.” No doubt, the diktat of the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice D Y Chandrachud is absolutely right and timely as they also stated, “The daughter is entitled to enjoy her freedom as the law permits and the court should not assume the role of super guardian being moved by any kind of sentiment of the mother or egotism of the father. We say so without any reservation.”
This is indeed another landmark decision on part of Supreme Court of India and perhaps section 497 of the IPC has contradicting views on the above.
The public humiliation of a woman by stripping and beating her was a punishment adopted in a village in Kharagpur district for adultery. This is just one example in a long line of similar incidents, which has led to heated discussions about the adultery law in India.
Section 497 of IPC
“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, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.”
Literally, the words of this law state that women are not to be charged for adultery, even when they are willing and equal participants in the act
It is important to establish, from the very onset, that the law in this regard does not seek to preserve the sanctity of marriage rather, it seeks to protect the structure of the institution. In the case of V. Revathi v. Union of India, in which the Court held that the man was the seducer and not the woman, the aforementioned law is aiming in its pursuit to punish only the ‘outsiders’ in the marriage in this case, the male adulterer.
Adulteration refers to the mixing of an undesirable substance in a pure element, hence the parallels drawn between the husband, whose bloodline has been adulterated by the outsider, gives some idea to the origin of the law. The husband has been cheated of his right to a pure bloodline, and under the above terms, he should receive protection under the law.
This is essentially saying that if a man’s property is defiled by another, the man can punish the offender, – the woman here is reduced to mere property. This was reinforced in the case of Sowmithri Vishnu v. Union of India, where Sowmithri, whose lover was prosecuted for adultery, contended that the law was gender biased. Despite being an equal party in the offence, the woman was a victim. She was exempted from punishment, as a child would be, suggesting that the woman committing adultery is incapable of rational thought.
The Indian laws are known to advocate gender discrimination on patriarchal lines of thought, thus it is high time that India should do away with such laws, otherwise it will lead to further stagnancy of the legal system.
The article was submitted by Pranav Shankyan (II year)