Google defines Adultery as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse”.
Voluntary sexual intercourse and sexual preferences are a personal matter of an individual and has nothing to do with state. The Supreme Court of India demonstrated this by abolishing Section 377
from the Constitution and decriminalizing homosexuality. It was again at show when SC struck down Section 497 as unconstitutional, decriminalizing adultery.
How legal acceptance of such laws does not ensure the social acceptance of them is not a hidden fact. If you ask me, the verdict of Supreme Court is correct but slightly flawed. The general view of public however, is that of disagreement.
I think that someone’s sexual life has nothing at all to do with legal and state authorities and it’s just a personal and moral matter. Especially in a country where arranged marriages are the only “respectable” kind of marriage that can exist (and inter-religious and inter caste marriages are still a taboo), such laws are much needed if an individual really wants to practice his or her freedom.
If this seems way too “radical” argument to you, there is one more reason why I’m happy about this verdict. Section 497 of Indian Constitution does not only stated that adultery is a crime, but also treated women or wives as husbands’ property, thus dehumanizing them. The section punished “a man” who has had a voluntary sexual relationship with a married woman "without the consent or connivance of her husband". So it all depends on the husband and yet it was a legally punishable offense.
The law, as it was stated, promoted inequality in every sense. Women were not even worthy of the offense they have committed. The victim here was the cuckolded husband, and the culprit was also a man –the one who was in sexual relationship with the victim’s wife. Woman is just an object through which the crime has been committed. Like a necklace that someone steals. Note that there was no provision for the adultery committed by men.
I would like to congratulate SC for this verdict, however, it is not free of flaws. The verdict says that the person who commits adultery now would not be punished under the law, but one can seek divorce on the grounds of adultery. Along with this, if the adulterer’s husband/wife commits suicide, then he/she would be proceeded against for the criminal offence of abetting suicide.
It’s the latter part that seems flawed. If someone chooses other than his/her spouse for love or sexual relationship, and the person commits suicide, would that be a criminal offense on the part of the “adulterer”? If yes, then all those educational institutions should be convicted the students of those commit suicide because of study pressure every year.
Keeping the flawed part aside, it’s remarkable that SC is finally seeing through the mist of colonization and Victorian morality that has shadowed our country for much longer. It was high time we did that, even England got rid of its own regressive laws way earlier.