The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to admit a plea by the Centre government which requested them to keep adultery a crime in the armed forces. In 2018, the court had announced that the offence of adultery under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code was unconstitutional. A bench headed by Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman issued a notice on the Centre’s plea and has sent the matter to Chief Justice of India SA Bobde to set up a five-judge constitution bench which will issue a clarification on the Centre’s request, as per reports.
Supreme Court bench led by Justice RF Nariman issues notice on application by Centre stating #SupremeCourt judgment decriminalising #adultery under IPC should not apply to armed forces when one can be expelled on unbecoming conduct for committing adultery pic.twitter.com/mEPdILrRqB— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) January 13, 2021
In September 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the 158-year-old law according to which adultery was a crime in India. The reason behind declaring the old law unconstitutional was that it dented the individuality of women and treated them as the property of their husbands; this is because the section gave a husband the exclusive right to prosecute his wife's lover. However, a similar right was not given to the wife to prosecute the woman with whom her husband has committed adultery. It also didn’t give women the right to prosecute her husband for committing adultery.
This decision by the Supreme court was not welcomed by the armed forces who urged that it must still be a punishable offence. Attorney general KK Venugopal who is representing MoD has said that since army personnel are away from their families for long periods it can cause issues for them. He further added, “In view of the aforesaid judgment, there will always be a concern in the minds of the army personnel who are operating far away from their families under challenging conditions about the family indulging in untoward activity,” quoted Hindustan Times.
Till now, the cases of extramarital affairs concerned with army personnel are handled through the Army Act. Mainly through two provisions of the Army Act – “conduct unbecoming of an officer” and conduct that disturbed “good order and military discipline”.