Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - India top court rules adultery no longer a crime




India top court rules adultery no longer a crime

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Indian Supreme Court building in New Delhi pictured on July 10. sajjad hussain/AFP

India top court rules adultery no longer a crime

Adultery is no longer a crime, India’s top court ruled Thursday, declaring a colonial-era law that punished the offence with jail time unconstitutional and discriminatory against women.

The more than century-old law prescribed that any man who slept with a married woman without her husband’s permission had committed adultery, a crime carrying a five-year prison term in the conservative country.

A petitioner had challenged the court to strike down the law, describing it as arbitrary and discriminatory against women.

“Thinking of adultery from a point of view of criminality is a retrograde step,” unanimously declared the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court.

Women could not file a complaint under the archaic law nor be held liable for adultery themselves, making it solely the realm of men.

The court said it deprived women of dignity and individual choice and “gives license to the husband to use women as a chattel”.

“It disregards the sexual autonomy which every woman possesses and denies agency to a woman in a matrimonial tie,” said Supreme Court Justice D Y Chandrachud.

“She is subjugated to the will of her spouse.”

It was the second time this month the court overturned Victorian-era laws governing the sexual choices of India’s 1.25 billion citizens.

Earlier this month, the court struck a ban on gay sex introduced by British rulers in 1861.

The bench argued that Section 377 had become “a weapon for harassment” of homosexuals and “history owes an apology to the members of this community and their families”.

On adultery, government lawyers argued it should remain a crime as it threatens the institution of marriage, and caused harm to children and families.

But in its ruling, the court said extramarital affairs – while still a valid ground for divorce – were a private matter between adults.

Prashant Bhushan, a lawyer in the Supreme Court, said watershed decisions on gay sex and adultery had shown the judges’ “adherence to liberal values and the constitution”.

“Another fine judgement by the SC,” he Tweeted after Thursday’s ruling.

In 1954, the court upheld adultery as a crime arguing “it is commonly accepted that it is the man who is the seducer, and not the woman”.

But in their ruling on Thursday, the judges said this narrative no longer applied, noting also that Britain did away with its own laws penalising adultery long ago.

“Man being the seducer and women being the victim no longer exits. Equality is the governing principle of a system. Husband is not the master of the wife,” the verdict added.

MOST VIEWED

  • Without shoes or a helmet, a young cyclist steals the show

    Pech Theara gripped the curved handlebars of his rusty old bike, planted his bare feet on its pedals and stormed as fast as he could towards the finish line. The odds were against him as the 13-year-old faced off against kids with nicer bikes at

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville expressway on schedule

    The construction of the more than $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway has not been delayed despite the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 26 per cent of the project completed and expected to finish in about two years, according to Ministry of Public Works and Transport secretary of

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there