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The Centre on Wednesday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court opposing a plea that seeks to make men and women equally liable for the crime of adultery, which they currently aren't. Currently, under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code the crime is applicable only to men who have sexual relations with a woman who isn't their wife. The Centre said Section 497 was enacted to safeguard the sanctity of marriage and diluting it would be detrimental to the matrimonial bond.
Last December, the SC agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the 157-year-old 'gender discriminatory provision' in the IPC which punishes a married man for adultery for consensual sexual relations with another man's wife. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud sought the Centre's response in four weeks to a PIL by Joseph Shine from Kerala who is employed at Trento in Italy on why a married man alone and not the consenting wife of another should be hauled up. What persuaded the SC to examine the constitutional validity of what it felt might be an archaic provision was the clean chit given to the woman, irrespective of her role in the adulterous relationship, as also counsel Kaleeswaram Raj's argument that as per Section 497 no offence of adultery is committed if there was consensual sexual relation between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman; an unmarried man and a married woman; and between a married man and an unmarried woman.