A parliamentary panel has recommended reinstating adultery as a criminal offense, asserting that the "sacred institution of marriage" needs to be "protected." The Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita, a bill introduced by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in September, is the subject of the panel's report.
The panel suggests treating the revised adultery law as a "gender-neutral" crime, holding both parties, the man and the woman, equally liable. The report, if accepted by the government, would contradict a landmark 2018 Supreme Court ruling that declared "adultery cannot and should not be a crime."
The Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita is part of a trilogy intended to replace the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act. It was sent to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs in August for further examination.
Congress MP P Chidambaram submitted a dissent note, arguing that the state should not interfere in the lives of couples and criticising the bills as essentially copies of existing laws, NDTV reported.
In 2018, the Supreme Court deemed adultery as a ground for civil offense leading to divorce but not a criminal offense. The court criticised the colonial-era law as "archaic," "arbitrary," and "paternalistic," violating women's autonomy and dignity.
The panel also proposes penalising "non-consensual" sex acts, similar to the partially struck-down Section 377 criminalising homosexuality. It argues that certain parts of Section 377 remain applicable for non-consensual carnal acts, acts with minors, and bestiality.
As part of this legal overhaul, the government is also considering changes to punishments for gang-rapes, killing minors, bribery during elections, and offenses related to secession, armed rebellion, subversive activities, and endangering national sovereignty.
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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