HomeSowmithri Vishnu v. Union of India (AIR 1985 SC 1618)



The husband, on grounds of desertion and adultery, had filed a divorce petition against his wife. In addition to this, he also filed a criminal complaint under Section 497 IPC against the man who had sexual intercourse with his wife. The petitioner thus filed a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of Section 497 IPC.


Whether Section 497 IPC is unconstitutional?


Section 497 IPC; Article 15, 21 of the Constitution of India.


The counsel for the petitioner brought up the argument that Section 497 IPC uses the concept of ‘Romantic Paternalism’ which propagates the idea of women as objects that need protection. The response of the Court to this was that it is always the man who makes the move, it is the man who is the active actor while the woman is more of a passive victim. The Court leaves it to the Legislature to amend the provision if that is the need of the changing society. On the question of why it is only made punishable in case of sexual intercourse with a married woman, the Court says that this kind of extra-marital relationship is the evilest since it is the wife of another man. The Court says that in other cases, a civil action can always be brought forward. The Court says that “Stability of marriages is not an ideal to be scorned”, and when it comes to extra-marital relations with the wife of another man, it should be made a criminal offence.


Section 497 IPC was held to be constitutionally valid and the writ petition filed by the petitioner was dismissed.
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