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Adultery no longer a criminal offense in India, but it doesn't mean you are allowed to cheat on your spouse

Declaring adultery as no more an criminal offence by the Supreme Court leads some people to worry about sanctity of marriage. The Supreme Court of India struck down section 497 IPC as unconstitutional. Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code deals with law of adultery. which states that "Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor."

Section 497 IPC doesn't bring within its purview the extramarital relationship of a man with an unmarried woman, widow or a divorcee. According to section 497 adultery means voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a married woman who is not his wife and without the consent of her husband. But if the husband of that married woman gives consent to that act,  it will not amount to any crime according to section 497.

Section 497 makes adultery a punishable offence only for male. The married man involved in adultery may be punished for imprisonment which may extend to five years or with fine or with both. But there is no punishment suggested for the married woman involved in adultery.

As per section 497 the wife of the married man who had involved in adultry with another married woman cannot file complain as the law didn't made any provision for her. Only the husband of the married woman involved in adultery with another man can file a complaint against that man. So it was a law for man against man.

However adultery will remain as a ground for divorce. Adultery is a ground of divorce according to Hindu Marriage Act.  According to section 13(1)(a)  of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 a marriage can be dissolved by a decree of divorce on the ground that the other party had voluntary sexual intercourse with any person other than his or her spouse after the marriage.

So Adultery or extramarital affair may not be a criminal offence but it will remain as a civil wrong in India and both husband or wife can file a  decree for divorce on the ground of adultery.


  1. Oh jeeze! Interesting. I have to say, I am glad I do not live in India.


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