Adultery should be made a crime again because “the institution of marriage is sacred” and it must be “protected”, a parliamentary panel recommended to the government Tuesday in its report on the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita, a bill tabled by Union Home Minister Amit Shah in September.
The report has also argued that the revised adultery law must treat it as a “gender-neutral” crime, and has called for both parties – the man and the woman – to be held equally liable.
The panel’s report, if accepted by the government, is set to contradict a landmark 2018 ruling by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court that said “adultery cannot and should not be a crime”.
The Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita is part of a set of three that is supposed to replace the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Indian Evidence Act. It had been sent in August to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs, which is headed by BJP MP Brij Lal, for further scrutiny.
Congress MP P Chidambaram was among those who submitted dissent notes; “… the State has no business to enter into the lives of a couple,” he said as he raised three “fundamental objections” that included claims that all three bills are “largely a copy and paste of the existing laws”.
In 2018, a Supreme Court bench led by the Chief Justice Dipak Misra said adultery “can be a ground for a civil offence… for divorce…” but could not be a criminal offence. The court reasoned that the 163-year-old, colonial-era law followed the invalidated concept of “husband is master of the wife”.