New Delhi: Referring to the Malimath Committee report on the reforms in criminal justice system, the centre has informed the Supreme Court that amendments to make Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code gender-neutral “is under consideration" as “the law commission is actively pursuing the issues, and its final views are awaited".
The centre’s stand was expressed in an affidavit filed in response to a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the law governing adultery, which only criminalises a man. It also objected to decriminalisation of adultery, as it would result in weaking the “sanctity of a marital bond".
The petition had been referred to a constitution bench by the apex court in January.
“Striking down Section 497 will prove to be detrimental to the intrinsic Indian ethos, which gives paramount importance to the institution and sanctity of marriage", the 11-page affidavit reads.
Section 497 of the IPC deals with adultery and imposes culpability on the person who has sexual intercourse with a woman, who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of the man (husband).
Adultery is punishable with imprisonment for a maximum term of five years, with fine, or with both. The woman, or wife, is exempted from the purview of this section.
The public interest litigation, moved by Joseph Shine, challenges the constitutional validity of the section, as it is discriminatory against men, and is in violation of Article 14 (equality before law), 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, caste, sex) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution of India.
The petition claims that while criminal law is supposed to be neutral, Section 497 is prejudiced against men.