With the shocking event in the history of India, the top court has decided to strike down century old law which treated women as a male property.
India’s top court has ruled adultery is no longer a crime, striking down a 158-year-old colonial-era law.
Previously any man who had sex with a married woman, without the permission of her husband, had committed a crime.
A petitioner had challenged the law saying it was arbitrary and discriminated against men and women.
It is not clear how many men have been prosecuted under the law – there is no data available.
This is the second colonial-era law struck down by India’s Supreme Court this month – it also overturned a 157-year-old law which effectively criminalized gay sex in India.
While reading out the judgement on adultery, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that while it could be grounds for civil issues like divorce, “it cannot be a criminal offence”.
Last August, Joseph Shine, a 41-year-old Indian businessman living in Italy, petitioned the Supreme Court to strike down the law.
He argued that it discriminated against men by only holding them liable for extra-marital relationships, while treating women like objects.
“Married women are not a special case for the purpose of prosecution for adultery. They are not in any way situated differently than men,” his petition said.
Shine also added “indirectly discriminates against women by holding an erroneous presumption that women are the property of men”.
According to his 45-page petition, Shine liberally quotes from American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, women rights activist Mary Wollstonecraft and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on gender equality and the rights of women.
However, India’s ruling BJP government had opposed the petition, insisting that adultery should remain a criminal offence.
“Diluting adultery laws will impact the sanctity of marriages. Making adultery legal will hurt marriage bonds,” a government counsel told the court, adding that “Indian ethos gives paramount importance to the institution and sanctity of marriage”.