No army official can now be prosecuted for adultery. The Supreme Court on Thursday ended a provision that could prosecute an army officer for adultery. The Supreme Court ended General Court Martial (GCM) proceedings against a serving Colonel. This was done in the light of its judgement in 2018 when adultery no more remained a crime after it scrapped Article 497  of the Indian Penal Code.

The officer then approached the apex court, citing that the retired Colonel and his wife were going through marital tensions. Owing to this, he wanted to file a divorce case against his wife and hence plotted adultery as the basis for the same.

Ranbir Penal Code Now Indian Penal Code

Though article 470 was scrapped in September 2018, the changes applied to the Indian Penal Code (IPC) only. The then state of Jammu and Kashmir had its own Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), and hence the rulings of the IPC didn’t apply to RPC. Section 497 of RPC, which had its content similar to Section 497 of IPC, was declared unconstitutional by a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Surya Kant. This was done on August 2, three days before the RPC was replaced by IPC.

 Wife An Abettor Of Adultery According to RPC

According to RPC, the wife was considered to be the abettor of adultery. This, the court upheld as unconstitutional again, as the main law of adultery under Section 497 of both RPC and IPC too have been declared to be unconstitutional.

In March 2016, the army proceeded against a decorated Colonel who was caught in two adulterous encounters with the wife of a retired Lt. Colonel. The retired Lt. Colonel had then complained against the officer to the army authorities. The accused Colonel had however denied having a sexual relationship with the woman and accepted meeting her in Jammu and Srinagar, as she insisted on meeting him for her social work.

The officer then approached the apex court, citing that the retired Colonel and his wife were going through marital tensions. Owing to this, he wanted to file a divorce case against his wife and hence plotted adultery as the basis for the same. The woman however patched up with her husband to save her marriage. She had initially written a letter to the army officials, exonerating the officer of any wrongdoing. Later, however, she too supported the officer’s prosecution.

CJI Dipak Misra called the “adultery law arbitrary” and said that the 150-year-old law punishes the male lover of a married woman for an affair, and not her

Advocate Meenakshi Arora, arguing from the side of accused officer, said that since Adultery has been removed as a crime in the IPC, a similar article in RPC cannot allow army officers to prosecute anyone on the basis of adultery.

Justice Nariman ruled, “We are of the view that nothing survives against the appellant (Colonel) on charges related to Section 497 of Penal Code. So far as Section 63 (Violation of Good Order and Discipline) of the Army Act, 1950, is concerned, the appellant has already been acquitted, subject to confirmation. The appeal stands allowed.”

Supreme Court bench, comprising five justices, last year, unanimously decided to strike down the Adultery Law under Section 497A. CJI Dipak Misra called the “adultery law arbitrary” and said that the 150-year-old law punishes the male lover of a married woman for an affair, and not her. It treats the married woman as a victim, and not as an abettor of the offence. The court also acknowledged that the law deprives women of dignity and treats them as a man’s property.

Image credit: thgim.com

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