Are extra -marital affairs fully legal in India after decriminalization of Section 497 IPC?


After the Supreme Court verdict, extra-marital affairs which were earlier a crime under section 497 IPC, will not be a crime but it does not mean that extra-marital affairs are legal in the court of law.

Section 497 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) was struck down by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on September 27, 2018, resulting in decriminalization of adultery in India. However, it very much holds a place under the category of civil offence and to that effect, it is one of the grounds for divorce. The judgment is important not just because it got rid of an archaic and patriarchal law, but also because of its consequences for the future terms. The question regarding the constitutionality of Section 497 IPC was challenged back in case of Yusuf Abdul Aziz vs. The state of Bombay (1954) in response to which bench held that Section 497 did not violate the right to equality that is enriched in Article 14 and 15.

Bizarre conditions that were set together constituted a near-perfect storm of patriarchy. This lead to smack of the belief that after her father, a husband is the one who has ownership over the women. And, since the husband was authorized to bring a prosecution against the other man, this particular law was being misused. The basic thought in minds that was prevailing was that a woman has no independent personality but is subsumed into the personality of her husband, for the purposes of law and for society. The entire scenario rather had a very philosophical and jurisprudential analysis. The chief justice in the recent historical judgment said that having extra-marital relations cannot be taken in the category of crime. The Supreme Court has declared the 157-year-old adultery law as unconstitutional.

After decades, the Constitutional Bench unanimously struck down section 497 of IPC as unconstitutional. It also held that adultery could not be criminalized at all. All the judges were clear that a woman has the right to bodily integrity, individual choice, and personal autonomy but the Hon’ble Court definitely does not supports extra-marital affairs in any way.

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