Supreme Court Questions  Gender Inequality Under Adultery LawSupreme Court will also consider the centre’s affidavit which argues to retain Section 497 to protect sanctity of marriage ( Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Supreme Court has observed that Section 497 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) is not compatible with principles of gender equality while hearing a petition on the matter, The Times Of India has reported. The five-judge bench considered the provision for punishment only for males under the adultery law as a violation of Article 14 of the constitution.

The lawyer of the petitioner, Kaleeshwaran Raj has argued that the provision has to be struck down. “ It (Section 497) cannot be read down or made gender neutral, it has to be struck down”, he said. Under the Section 497, a man committing adultery can be imprisoned for up to five years, whereas the woman cannot be punished.

Appearing for the NGO Partners For Law in Development, senior advocate Meenakshi Arora argued that Section 497 treats a woman as a chattel of a man and hence the whole provision has to be struck down.

The government counsel has argued to retain the provision in IPC in order to protect the sanctity of the institution of marriage. “Striking down of the provision would be tantamount to decriminalising the offence of adultery, thereby eroding the sanctity of marriage and the fabric of society at large”, the government affidavit argued. Further, it added that punishing the man alone could also “wreak havoc” on the institution of marriage.

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