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Significance of decriminalization of adultery for Shudras and Ati-Shudras

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold individual freedom and declare that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code is unconstitutional is justified. However, it is difficult to immediately ascertain the implication of such individual liberty in a country like India where numerous dimensions of caste-based discrimination sanctified by the religious scriptures exist

New Delhi: The Supreme Court pronounced a crucial verdict invalidating the law against adultery on Thursday. The court declared that the penal provision related to adultery was unconstitutional saying that it was clearly arbitrary and deprived women of her sexual autonomy and dignity. The Constitutional bench of five judges had reserved the verdict on Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code on 9 August. The issue of constitutionality of Section 497 was raised because it had made adultery a punishable offence only for men.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra said: “A woman cannot be asked to think as a man or as how society desires. Such a thought is abominable, for it slaughters her core identity. And, it is time to say that a husband is not the master. Equality is the governing parameter.” Now, a man’s relations with another man’s wife will not be categorized as a crime unless an aggrieved spouse commits suicide.

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