New Delhi, July 11: The Centre on Wednesday opposed a plea which sought to make men and women equally liable for the crime of adultery. In its response to the plea, the Centre said the Section 497, stipulating prosecution of the man in an adulterous relationship with a married woman and letting off the woman who is otherwise an equal participant in the extramarital affair, was enacted to safeguard the sanctity of marriage and diluting it would be detrimental to the matrimonial bond.
Section 497 on adultery says "whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor".
Petitioner Joseph Shine from Kerala who is employed at Trento in Italy challenged the constitutional validity of the IPC's Section 497 and Section 198 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on the grounds of their being violative of the Constitution's Articles 14 (Equality before law), 15 (Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth) and 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty).
Earlier, referring to the earlier two judgments of the top court upholding the Section 497, the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said these need reconsideration. The top court, by its 1954 and later in 1985 order by the bench of four judges and three judges respectively, had upheld the validity of this section of the Indian Penal Code.