The Supreme Court on Wednesday approved a petition by the Center seeking exemption from prosecution for adultery of the armed forces. The Supreme Court in September 2018 declared it unconstitutional under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). A three-judge bench headed by Justice RF Nariman heard the matter on an application filed by the Ministry of Defense (MoD) seeking clarification to this effect.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing on behalf of the Ministry of Defense, told the court that in the court’s judgment of 27 September 2018 in Joseph Shine vs Union of India case, adultery was not considered an offense. Let us tell you that the Armed Forces personnel can be convicted for this work under the Army Act, Naval Act and Air Force Act.
Venugopal said, “The army, navy and air force have provisions by which those caught in adulterous acts can be punished for their conduct. In this they can also be court martialed.”
The application by the Center stated, “The first decision pronounced by this Court may create instability within the applicant services, as defense personnel are expected to act in peculiar conditions. In the meantime they are sometimes required to provide for their families.” They have to be isolated. They have to stay away from the family for long periods when they are deployed in borders or other remote areas or in areas with inhuman weather and terrain. “
Venugopal said that in view of the decision of the Supreme Court needs to be clarified, an argument can also be raised that we are bypassing the law and which cannot be done directly in view of the aforesaid judgment.
Issuing the notice, the Supreme Court has referred the matter to Chief Justice SA Bobde, appealing to hear the matter in the Constitution Bench of five judges. The bench also included Justice Naveen Sinha and KM Joseph, saying, “We cannot clarify as it is a decision of the Constitution Bench.”
The application states that unlike Section 497 of the IPC, the Armed Forces do not make any distinction between man or woman.
Adultery under Section 497 was an offense before the 2018 verdict. Under which there was a provision of 5 years punishment for those men, who form a relationship with a married woman with or without his consent. In the 2018 judgment, although the Supreme Court held that adultery could not be a crime, it would remain a basis for seeking divorce.