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Adultery Law Gets Scrapped: Another Progressive Step In India

Misra is stepping down as chief justice next week when he turns 65, the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges. 

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India
A gardener works on the lawns of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India, Aug. 22, 2017. VOA

The chief justice of  Supreme Court of India has presided over a string of recent rulings that grant more rights to women, gay couples and religious minorities, challenging deeply conservative Indian society before he retires next month.

In the latest decision Thursday, Chief Justice Dipak Misra and the rest of the five-member court struck down a 158-year-old law that treated adultery in certain cases as a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.

The court called the law, which did not allow wives to prosecute adulterous husbands, unconstitutional and noted that a “husband is not the master of woman.” Adultery can still be grounds for divorce in India, the verdict said, but a criminal penalty violated women’s protection to equal rights under the law.

Accolades for ruling

The verdict was hailed by activists and left-of-center members of India’s Parliament.

“Excellent decision,” tweeted Sushmita Dev, a lawmaker and president of the opposition Congress party’s women’s wing. She said “a law that does not give women the right to sue her adulterer husband … is unequal treatment and militates against her status as an individual.”

India
Participants displays a rainbow flag and cheer as gay rights activists and their supporters march during a gay pride parade in New Delhi, India. VOA

Amnesty International India said the decision was “a progressive judgment” and the old law was a “remnant of a time when a woman was considered to be the property of her husband.”

The scrapped law allowed men to file charges against other men who had affairs with their wives. Women having affairs could not be prosecuted, but they also couldn’t file a complaint against cheating husbands.

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Gay couples, religious minorities

Earlier this month, the Misra-led court also struck down a colonial-era law that made gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The 1861 law, a relic of Victorian England that hung on long after the end of British colonialism, was “a breach of the rights of privacy and dignity,” the court ruled. It added that “history owes an apology to the members of this community and their families, for the delay in providing redressal for the ignominy and ostracism that they have suffered through the centuries.”

On Thursday, the court also decided not to reconsider a 1994 decision that would have delayed proceedings in a case over the ownership of the site of a mosque that Hindu hard-liners demolished in 1992.

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Indian Muslim women talk while walking through a market in Ahmadabad, India. VOA

Fast pace for India

The court’s recent pace of decisions speaks to another feature of Misra’s tenure: expediting cases in a country where they routinely take decades to resolve.

There are 33 million court cases pending in India, government figures show.

Misra is stepping down as chief justice next week when he turns 65, the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court judges.

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He joined India’s highest court in 2011. His 13-month tenure as chief justice has won him accolades from advocates of disadvantaged groups but drawn unprecedented criticism from other members of the bench.

In January, the four most senior justices held a news conference against Misra, who as chief justice controls the court’s roster and decides who will take which cases, listing a litany of problems that they said afflicted the court and risked undermining India’s democracy. Misra met with the dissenting judges, who continued on the bench. (VOA)

Next Story

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt Takes Pledge Not to Support Citizenship Amendment Act

The Bill, which has since become an Act, will provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh

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Mahesh Bhatt
After attending the press meet, Mahesh Bhatt on Sunday tweeted: We the people of India , having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC.(At Ambedkar's abode. After reading the Preamble of our Constitution)". Wikimedia Commons

Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt on Sunday took a pledge not to support the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

He along with Congress leader Sanjay Jha joined a protest meet here. A video is doing the rounds on the Internet in which Bhatt is seen taking the pledge, perhaps a few days back.

“We believe Citizenship Amendment Bill is discriminatory and it violates the constitutional values. We don’t accept this bill and if it becomes a law we shall boycott its execution. We pledge not to submit any documents if asked to prove our citizenship,” he has said in the video.

After attending the press meet, Bhatt on Sunday tweeted: We the people of India , having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC.(At Ambedkar’s abode. After reading the Preamble of our Constitution).”

Several parts of India have been witnessing violent protests ever since the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill was passed in Lok Sabha last week. The situation further escalated after the bill was cleared in Rajya Sabha.

The Bill, which has since become an Act, will provide Indian nationality to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists fleeing persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Mahesh Bhatt
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt on Sunday took a pledge not to support the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Wikimedia Commons

The issue has caused widespread unprecedented violent protests in the northeast, especially in the states of Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya, with the agitating demonstrators demanding the withdrawal of the CAA claiming that the fresh legislation would jeopardize the demographic situations and life, culture and socio-economic positions to the 45.58 million populations of region.

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On Sunday afternoon, four buses were burnt in South Delhi as protesters clashed with police. (IANS)