NCW rejects proposal to punish women for adultery

December 26, 2006 12:00 am | Updated March 22, 2012 09:41 am IST

No amendment needed to Section 497 of the IPC

Adultery should be treated as civil wrongRecommends amendments to Section 198 (2) of Cr.PC

New Delhi: A woman, even if she is involved in an illicit relationship, cannot be punished for adultery and is treated as a victim under law.

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has shot down proposals for amending Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which provides expressly that the wife cannot be punished even as an abettor, based on the reasoning that the woman, who is involved in an illicit relationship with another man, is a victim and not the author of the crime.

The commission, according to its sources, does not think that by merely prescribing punishment for women by amending Section 497, marriage can be protected or saved.

In its recommendations forwarded to the Government, which asked it to review Section 497, the NCW has stated that considering the relatively socially unempowered position of women, no amendments have been suggested. The existing IPC provision is based on the mindset that the wife is a personal possession of the husband, who is solely aggrieved by adultery.

Amendments to Section 198(2)

The Commission has, however, recommended suitable amendments to Section 198(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.PC), which disqualifies a woman from prosecuting her husband for his promiscuity.

As already the woman can take action against her husband under various other legal provisions such as Section 498A of the IPC, there is no reason that she should be barred from initiating prosecution under Section 198 of the Cr.PC.

The wife, in such cases, ought to be the person aggrieved and competent to file a complaint under Section 198.


In another important recommendation, the Commission has said adultery should be treated as a civil wrong and not as criminal offence.

There may be many instances in which the woman wants to save marriage and sees the adulterous relationship as an aberration. The issue of adultery should be viewed as a breach of trust and treated as a civil wrong rather than as a criminal offence.

The NCW has, however, said this should be done only after a national consensus is formed on the issue. PTI

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