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Armed Forces and Adultery

  • 02 Feb 2023
  • 5 min read

Prelims: Adultery, Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Mains: Armed Forces and Adultery.

Why in News?

Recently, the Supreme Court has ruled that armed forces can take action against their officers for adulterous acts, while stating the decriminalization of adultery does not apply to Armed Forces.

  • In September 2018 Joseph Shine Judgment, the SC struck down Section 497 of the IPC that criminalised adultery, ruling that it was unconstitutional and violated women's right to equality in treating them as inferior to their husbands.

What is the Recent Ruling?

  • The SC clarified that in the 2018 judgment, the SC was concerned only with the validity of Section 497 of the IPC and Section 198(2) of the CrPC dealing with adultery, and had “no occasion whatsoever to consider the effect” with respect to the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts.
    • Defence personnel of the three wings — the Army, Navy and the Air Force were governed by special legislation, the Army Act, the Navy Act and the Air Force Act.
    • These special laws impose restrictions on the fundamental rights of the personnel, who function in peculiar situation requiring utmost discipline.
    • The three laws are protected by Article 33 of the Constitution, which allow the government to modify the fundamental rights of the armed forces personnel
  • The Bench delivered the final Order in the case, clarifying that the Joseph Shine Judgment did not apply to members of the armed forces who are accused of ‘conduct unbecoming’ and dismissed the application.

What are the Significances?

  • Abolishing adultery as a crime, might prevent members of the armed services from being found guilty of adulterous activities. When jawans and officers are deployed to hostile environments, other officers look after their families at base camp, and the laws and regulations that specify consequences for engaging in adulterous or promiscuous behavior aid in upholding discipline.
  • Armed services soldiers who commit adultery with a coworker's wife may be cashiered from their jobs for acting unbecomingly.

What is Adultery?

  • About:
    • The act of adultery is a voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person's current spouse or partner.
  • Section 497 of the IPC:
    • It mandates that whoever has sexual intercourse with the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting the offence of rape is guilty of the offence of adultery and shall be punished.
    • The law does not punish his wife, since it presumes that only a man can seduce a woman into a sexual act, and that it is the husband who has suffered due to the sexual relationship of his wife, carried out without his consent. At the same time, the wife is not protected from similar behaviour committed by her husband.
  • Adultery in the Indian Armed Forces:
    • Regarding the Indian Armed Forces, military personnel are subject to the provisions of the IPC, including the law on adultery. In addition, the Indian military has its own set of regulations and codes of conduct that prohibit adultery and other forms of immoral behavior.
    • The specific consequences for committing adultery in the Indian Armed Forces may vary, but can include administrative action, disciplinary action, or court-martial.
    • The rules and procedures for dealing with such cases are established by the Indian military justice system.

Source: IE

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