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Adultery is illegal in India, according to section 497 of the Indian Penal Code. Section 497 has been challenged in court multiple times in the past, but each time the Supreme Court has upheld its validity. However, in the case of Joseph Shine v. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India struck down the 158-year-old Victorian morality statute prohibiting adultery on September 27, 2018.



The legality of section 497 of the Indian Penal Code was challenged by hotelier Joseph Shine. The petition's main goal was to protect Indian men from being punished by vindictive women or their husbands for extramarital affairs. In Kerala, a close friend of the petitioner committed suicide after a female coworker accused him of rape.


A three judge bench headed by then CJI Dipak Mishra had referred this petition to a five judge constitution bench which comprised of CJ Dipak Mishra, and Justices R.F Nariman, A.M Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra.


The court had observed that law is based on certain ‘Societal presumption’. In four different judgments, the court has struck down the law and declared that husband cannot be the master of his wife. The judgment held the following things:-


  1. Section 497 is archaic and is constitutionally invalid-

Section 497 disposes women from her autonomy, dignity and privacy. It is considered as the encroachment on her right to life and personal liberty by accepting the notion of marriage which overthrows the true equality. Equality is overthrow by adopting the sanctions of penal code to a gender based approach to the relationship of man and woman. Sexual autonomy falls within the area of personal liberty under article 21 of Constitution of India. It is very much important in a relationship the expectations that one has from the another. When both the spouses respect each other with equality and dignity then only the respect for sexual autonomy is established.

  1. Adultery is no longer be a criminal offence-

A crime is committed against the society as a whole whereas adultery is a personal issue. Adultery does not fit into the ambit of crime as it would otherwise invade the extreme privacy sphere of marriage. However, adultery can be considered as a civil wrong and is a valid ground for divorce.


  1. Husband is not the master of his wife-

The judgment focuses on the fact that women should not be considered as the property of their husband or father anymore. They have equal status in the society and should be given every opportunity to put their stance forward.



The Supreme Court of India overturned section 497 of the Indian Penal Code in this case. The court imposed restrictions on the institution of marriage, which is the bedrock of Indian culture. Adultery-related offences will be eliminated as a result of this. This decision has resulted in sexual anarchy. Adultery is no longer regarded as a civil wrong, and it can only be used as a basis for divorce. However, the grounds are insufficiently compelling, and hence this cannot become Lex Loci. If adultery is not regarded a crime, divorce on this basis would be a fruitless endeavour. Criminal law is regarded as a defender of Indian society's moral norms. .If we start subjecting laws to our personal rationale, we'll end up with chaos, because there will always be a counter-narrative.


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