ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Folly of Re-criminalising Adultery

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court of India’s judgment decriminalising the offence of adultery in the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Parliamentary Standing Committee examining the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023 has demanded its reintroduction as a criminal offence. Not only is the move regressive, but it also completely misunderstands the reason why the Supreme Court deemed the criminalisation of adultery unconstitutional.

In its 246th report, the Parliament Standing Committee on Home Affairs has suggested that the proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill (BNS), 2023 be amended to make adultery a criminal offence again (Joy 2023). The committee notes that the Supreme Court has struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 as being a violation of Articles 14, 15, and 21 (in Joseph Shine v Union of India1) but still bafflingly suggests that adultery be re-criminalised but in a “gender neutral” manner. Such re-criminalisation, it argues, is necessary to “safeguard” the “sanctity” of the institution of marriage.

The committee’s suggestion comes out of nowhere and there is little serious discussion as to the basis of making such a recommendation beyond a vague reference to the opinions of certain members and “experts” that the committee chose to hear. On the other hand, one of the dissenting notes by one of the members of Parliament on the committee, Derek O’Brien, argues that adultery should not be decriminalised (Rajya Sabha 2023).

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Updated On : 29th Nov, 2023
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