IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


16th November, 2023 Polity


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Picture Courtesy: www.hindustantimes.com

Context: The discussion around the criminalization of adultery in India revolves around the legal and constitutional aspects, as well as the societal understanding of marriage and individual rights.

  • Key Highlights
  • Before 2018, Section 497 existed in the IPC, criminalizing adultery. However, it was widely criticized for being biased as it only penalized men for adultery, excluding women from any legal consequences.
  • In the case of Joseph Shine vs Union of India in 2018, the Supreme Court declared Section 497 unconstitutional.
    • The court ruled that the provision was discriminatory and violated constitutional principles, particularly Articles 14 (equality before the law), 15 (prohibition of discrimination), and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty).
    • The judgment emphasized the autonomy of women within marital relationships, rejecting the notion that a husband has legal sovereignty over his wife.
    • The court underscored the importance of protecting fundamental rights, including the right to equality, non-discrimination, and personal liberty.
  • The Supreme Court's decision was not solely based on the discriminatory nature of Section 497 but also broader constitutional principles. Treating adultery as a criminal offence was found to be inappropriate due to its impact on the dignity and privacy of individuals.
  • The court's decision reflected evolving societal norms, rejecting archaic notions of women as property. Reintroducing adultery as a criminal offence might not align with contemporary perspectives on individual autonomy and the nature of marital relationships.


  • The debate over the criminalization of adultery in India involves a careful consideration of legal, constitutional, and societal factors. While there are arguments for reinstating adultery as a criminal offence, any legislative action should be mindful of constitutional principles, individual rights, and the evolving understanding of marriage in contemporary society.

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ADULTERY: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/adultery


Q. How has the perception and legal treatment of adultery evolved in India over the years, and what are the current social, cultural, and legal perspectives on extramarital relationships in the country?