Verdict on Section 497

By Pallavi Sareen. Dated: 10/9/2018 12:08:01 AM

The many facets of decriminalising adultery

A step towards reformation or a step back into bestiality? There are many arguments surrounding the recent Supreme Court verdict on Section 497 of IPC. But it is a common belief by all that the law was discriminatory against women, derogatory in its belief that 'wife is the property of her husband' and had many loopholes which made it unconstitutional. But was scrapping it off the right thing to do? Shouldn't some parts of it be removed like in the Article 377 verdict and perhaps there was a scope of an amendment to ensure that infidelity and adultery don't become a common phenomenon after the fear of the law is removed?
A common argument in favour of the SC verdict is that in India, we have a right to privacy which includes right to freedom of sexual expression and while infidelity in a marriage is a moral wrong, it cannot be considered a criminal wrong. Another belief is that marriage is sacrosanct and a bond between two individuals who come together of their own will and agree to be faithful to each other don't need the fear of law which makes the married individual remain faithful.
But in a country like India where the number of arranged marriages is way more than the number of love marriages, a concept that is still not accepted among society, even in the 21st century, this argument doesn't hold true. The number of cases of marital rape, domestic violence and unhappy marriages is quite high in the country. This assumes that a person who commits adultery does it for reasons stronger than physical pleasure and while cases may differ in different scenarios, it does have a valid point wherein a person should be allowed to escape an unhappy marriage they are trapped in without the act being punishable by law.
Since, adultery can still not be justified and it is a moral wrong, the court said that it can still be a ground for divorce. Yet that doesn't hold true for all relationships since in the Indian orthodox middle-class families, divorce is actually less seldom to happen.
Even after having enough reasons, opportunity and will to do so, divorce cases are usually sorted out among the parties who compromise and decide to give it another chance. As such, at least scrapping the archaic law allows the individuals a chance to sort out the differences, find reasons behind the act, try to work through it instead of putting a man behind bars.
A reality check on adultery in a society like India comes from the societal disapproval and 'log kya kahenge' phenomenon which even the strongest of individuals in a society falls prey to and is careful of. Since adultery is considered a moral wrong, instead of the fear of the law, it would be the fear of the society that would keep people in check.
That takes care of the majority of such cases that might be culminating with the decriminalising verdict and the rest could be taken care of by NGOs, divorce lawyers and society on their own. India is a country that grants liberty and independence to its people and if a law impinges on any fundamentally right of the Indian citizens, it is completely right to amend or remove it.

 

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