Only a man can be proceeded against and punished for adultery, but the wife cannot be, even as an abettor, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha said, “Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code [which deals with adultery] is currently under criticism from certain quarters for showing a strong gender bias, for it makes the position of a married woman almost as a property of her husband. But in terms of the law as it stands, it is evident from a plain reading of the Section that only a man can be proceeded against and punished for … adultery. Indeed, the Section provides expressly that the wife cannot be punished even as an abettor.”
Kalyani appealed against an Andhra Pradesh High Court judgment that dismissed her petition against registration of a case for adultery under Section 497 of the IPC and wrongful restraint under Section 341 of the IPC by another woman, Sailaja, who alleged that her husband was in an illicit relationship with her.
No case made out
Quashing the charges and allowing the appeal, the Bench said: “The mere fact that the appellant is a woman makes her completely immune to the charge of adultery, and she cannot be proceeded against is evident from a plain reading of Section 497…”
As for Section 341, the Bench said: “On the basis of the allegation made in the complaint, we fail to see how the charge of wrongful restraint can be made out against the appellant. All the allegations in the complaint taken on their face value do not make out any case against the accused.
“We are, therefore, satisfied that the proceedings against the appellant are equally fit to be quashed, and the High Court was in error in not allowing the quashing application filed by the appellant.”