FAQ : What is the rationale behind Section 497 IPC?

  • August 2, 2017
  • 12:06 pm
  • Kainat Singh

All around the world, the universal law that applies is that women committing adultery shall be held liable for it, however that is not seen to be the case in India. In India, Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code allows for the husband to sue the man that was involved in the adultery with the woman, but not the woman herself.

In the emerging age of feminism one could only expect gender bias to slowly evolve into gender equity but alas that does not seem to be the case with the Indian legislative scenario. The legal system that proudly boasts equality irrespective of gender is doused in hypocrisy with respect to Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with Adultery in case of which “The wife shall not be punishable as an abettor”.

During the formulation of the IPC in the 1860’s and its enactment further by Lord Macaulay, gender biased laws were prevalent because of a stark differentiation between the gender roles. Women were not allowed to exist beyond the vicinities of their households and their position was upheld with a greatly ironic sanctity.

This prehistoric rationale continues to be questioned by many anti-feminists and rightly so since a woman by virtue of her gender is completely immune from the charge of adultery as was seen in the case of W. Kalyani v. State Tr. Insp. and Anr where the proceedings were quashed in entirety.

The gender-biased provision has gotten great flak from male population considering that the law is tilted against them. How does one contend that a law is favorable to women when the very same law makes it legal for a man to have extramarital relations with a widow, or even an unmarried woman?

The wife’s hands are tied in this instance – she is helpless to bring charges against her husband under this section. It is rudimentary understanding that women too are more than capable of adultery by dint of nothing else but sheer human nature ergo these dusty Victorian remnants which were devised with the purpose of safeguarding the prestige associated with women only continue to be a constant reminder of the sympathetic and charitable view that the society holds towards them.

The only plausible justification for the absence of an amendment towards the act is the adherence to the provisions under Article 15(3) of the Constitution which permits the State to make “any special provision for women and children” but in my very humble opinion the parliament should not use the provisions under Article 15(3) to give them a license to commit and abet a crime and that too with a legal affiliation of sorts, thus an amendment to neutralize section 497 should be put to immediate effect.