ADULTERY is no longer a crime in India after a top court on Thursday declared the colonial-era law that slapped offenders with jail time unconstitutional and discriminatory against women.
“Thinking of adultery from a point of view of criminality is a retrograde step,” a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously declared, according to the AFP.
Under the century-old law, any man who slept with a married woman without the consent of her husband had committed adultery, an offence which carries a maximum five-year prison term.
The law was considered discriminatory towards women who could not file a complaint, or be held liable for adultery themselves.
The courts ruling said the law treated women as property of men as they were deprived of dignity and individual choice.
While it was a valid ground for divorce, the court said adultery was a private matter.
In 1954, the court upheld the legality of the crime, saying “it is commonly accepted that it is the man who is the seducer, and not the women”.
However, earlier this year a petitioner challenged the law, arguing it was “discriminatory”.
Earlier this month, the Indian Supreme Court legalised homosexuality, overturning a 157-year ban on consensual gay sex.
“Whenever the constitutional courts come across a situation of transgression or dereliction in the sphere of fundamental rights which are also the basic human rights of a section, howsoever small part of the society, then it is for the constitutional courts to ensure that constitutional morality prevails over social morality,” the court said in a decision issued on Sept 6.
The decriminalisation of consensual gay sex was celebrated by gay rights advocates worldwide, following court battles against the British colonial-era law that criminalised homosexual acts which lasted for nearly a decade.