8888677771 | Reintroduce in BNS adultery section in gender-neutral form, says panel

NEW DELHI: The standing committee on home affairs is likely to recommend that adultery – as referred to in Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which was read down by the Supreme Court in 2018 and also excluded recently from the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill (BNS) – be retained in the proposed legislation in a gender-neutral avatar to safeguard sanctity of the “sacred” institution of marriage.

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The Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, which seeks to replace British-era Indian Penal Code, was introduced by the government in August 2023 and referred to the committee.
If the recommendation is accepted & the bill, as amended, is passed by Parliament, it would mean that either the man or woman in a marriage can be booked for adultery.
Incidentally, the Centre’s affidavit before the SC in 2018 had argued that diluting adultery would impact the sanctity of marriage.

TOI has learnt that while some members of the committee batted for reintroduction of adultery provision of Section 497 in BNS, domain experts, who appeared before the panel, asked it to consider if the section, in the interest of protecting marriage as an institution, should be totally deleted or retained by making both men and women equally culpable under the law. The

home ministry, in its comments, recalled that Section 497 of the IPC had already been read down by SC and said the committee may take a view in this regard.
Section 497 of IPC provided for up to five years of imprisonment or fine, or both, for a man who has sexual intercourse (not amounting to rape) with another man’s wife without that man’s consent or connivance. However, the wife in such a case was not punishable as an abettor.
A five-judge bench had, while ruling on a petition by NRI Joseph Shine in 2018, struck down Section 497 saying that it violated Article 14, 15 & 21 of Constitution. It termed the law as archaic and paternalistic & said it infringed upon a woman’s privacy, apart from penalising only the man.

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