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What is IPC Section 497: Adultery.

India Needs To Debate About Law On Adultery


  • Description: IPC Section 497 deals with the offence of adultery in India. Adultery refers to the act of a man engaging in sexual intercourse with a married woman without the consent of her husband. This provision specifically targets the man involved, considering it a criminal offence, while the woman is exempted from prosecution.
  • Offence: Adultery is considered an offence against the institution of marriage, aiming to protect the sanctity of marital relationships.
  • One Example: For instance, if a married woman willingly enters into a sexual relationship with a man who is not her husband, the husband can file a complaint against the man for committing adultery.
  • Cognizance: Cognizance of the offence can only be taken upon a complaint filed by the husband of the married woman involved in the act. The police cannot investigate or make an arrest without a warrant or a court order, as it is a non-cognizable offence.
  • Bailable or Not: Adultery is a bailable offence, meaning that the accused can secure bail upon arrest. The granting of bail depends on the discretion of the court.
  • Trial by which level of court: The trial for adultery is conducted by a Magistrate of the First Class or a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class. The court examines the evidence and hears the arguments from both the complainant and the accused.
  • Quantum of Punishment: The punishment for adultery under IPC Section 497 includes imprisonment for a term that may extend up to five years, or with a fine, or both. However, it is important to note that in a significant judgment in 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalized adultery, deeming it unconstitutional and violative of the right to equality. Consequently, the applicability of this punishment may no longer be valid.
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