The Supreme Court has struck down the 160-year-old law that sought to punish men for having sex with the wife of another man.

Section 497 of the IPC has been held to be unconstitutional.

It also said thinking of adultery as a crime is a retrograde step.

“This means that in a matrimonial dispute, no criminal proceeding can be launched by any party,” said lawyer Kaleeshwaram Raj, one of the petitioners in the case.

The court held the provision bad in law as it discriminated between men and women.

Section 497 says that any man can file a case against another man if the latter has sexual relationship with his wife without his permission.

The wife, on the other hand, could not file a case against another woman for sleeping with her husband.

“Ancient concepts such as a man being a perpetrator and a woman being a victim no longer hold true,” said the court. It also said that the existing law considered the wife the property of the husband.

The Court, however, maintained that adultery can be considered grounds for divorce.

Similarly, if a person commits suicide due to adultery by his or her spouse, then the spouse could potentially be made liable for abetment of suicide.

The court also struck down section 198(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code that supplemented section 497 of the IPC.

Flavia Agnes, a lawyer who specializes in women’s rights, called it a ‘great judgement’.

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