A D U L T E R Y
“B” a boy has s*xual relationship with “W” a woman who is the wife of “M” a man. B the flirt knows it or he has reason to believe that W is the wife of poor M. M has neither given his consent nor connivance to B for such s*xual intercourse. Though such s*xual intercourse by B will not amount to rape, but B shall be guilty to the offence of Adultery. B shall be punished with imprisonment of either descripttion for a term which may extend to five years , or with fine, or with both. In such case the W wife shall not be punished as an abettor.
Adultery is defined and made punishable under section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
In order to constitute the offence of adultery, following ingredients are essential :
1. The accused ( B) had s*xual intercourse with a woman (W);
2. The woman (W) concerned was wife of another man (M) having been lawfully married to him ;
3. The accused (B) knew or had reason to believe that the woman(W) was so married;
4. There was no consent or connivance on the part of the husband (M) of the victim woman.
Hon’ble Supreme Court in V. Revathi –Vs- Union of India AIR 1988 SC 835 made observation that this section deals with the offence committed by an outsider to the matrimonial unit. Sec 497 is so designed that a husband can not prosecute the wife for defiling the sanctity of matrimonial tie by committing adultery. The law permits neither the offending wife nor the disloyal husband to prosecute each other. It is the outsider who violates the sanctity of the matrimonial home, is punished.
Hon’ble Supreme Court in Soumithri Vishnu –Vs- Union of India AIR 1985 SC 1618 : 1985 Cr.L.J 1302 in a petition which challenged the constitutional validity of Sec 497 on the ground that this section makes an irrational classification between men and women because it :
1. Confers upon the husband, the right to prosecute the adulterer, but does not confer any corresponding right upon the wife to prosecute the woman with whom her husband has committed adultery;
2. does not confer any right on the wife to prosecute the husband who has committed adultery with another woman; and
3. does not embrace cases where the husband has s*xual relations with an unmarried woman.
The Supreme Court overruled the pleas and held that the definition of adultery does not discriminate between man and woman by conferring right only on husband to prosecute and that the section is not violative of Arts. 14 and 15 of the Constitution. It was further held that the section does not offend Art. 21 of the Constitution because there is no provision (in sec.497) for hearing the wife.
Regarding the proof of adultery the High Court in Kasturi-Vs-Ramaswami 1979 Cr.L.J 741 observed that Sexual intercourse being the gist of offence, direct evidence of an act of adultery is extremely difficult to find. Direct evidence even when produced will lead the court to look upon with suspicion as it is highly improbable that any person can witness such acts which are generally performed with utmost secrecy.
Calcutta, Delhi, Rajasthan and other High Courts in unison voice observed that Direct proof of adultery is very rare. It has to be proved from a totality of circumstances.
Adultery is non-cognizable offence. So police can not investigate it without the order of the area Magistrate who is empowered to take cognizance and to try the case himself. An aggrieved person can directly approach the area Magistrate and file a private complaint, if he has sufficient evidence to bring home the charge alternatively the husband of the victim woman can make an application u/s 155(2) Cr. P.C for investigation by Police but Police can not arrest the accused without warrant issued by the Magistrate. The offence of adultery is bailable , so the accused has a right to get bail immediately. There is no prescribed time limit to complete the investigation. After completion of investigation the Police shall submit charge-sheet before the magistrate who shall take cognizance and proceed to hold trial either himself or through magistrate sub-ordinate to him. The conviction rate for the offence of adultery is very difficult to say but it can safely be said that it is very difficult to prove the offence. Standard of proof is same which is required in any other criminal case.
1) No complaint petition by any aggrieved person- only husband of the petitioner could have filed the complaint. Proceedings against petitioner quashed. Criminal Petition allowed.
n Bapuju Narmada vs. State of A.P 2001(1) ALT (Crl) 297 (A.P).