The Supreme Court of India, upholding the constitutional morality has decriminalised adultery yesterday. I am sure a lot of celebrities must heave a sigh of relief, unafraid of the earlier social stigma and legal consequences related to their escapades.
Did the court overstep in its zeal to provide a level playing field to the oppressed women? Have they erred in legalising a socially unacceptable and morally corrupt activity, which could damage the very foundation of marriage? Can a court overlook or rubbish traditions in the name of constitutional propriety? A lot of questions have emerged, which has thrown the country into a turmoil, though there has been a muted appreciation of the court coming of age and its decision hailed in some quarters as ‘mature.’
Adultery, until the yesterday was punishable, under Sec 497 IPC, which states: Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the crime of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case, the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.
If the court saw an area of inequality, violative of Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution and thus scrapped the 1860 Law, equality could have also been to consider punishing the women for such offence in the same manner as it would have dealt with a man.
The court has opined that adultery treated a woman as victim of the offence and as ‘property’ of her husband. Our religion has recognised women as an integral part by blending Shiva and Parvati together, unseen as in any other religion. The court has exemplified the sex part, which is but just one of the parts of our lives, which enlivens during a part of one’s life and after that ebbs out when spiritual thoughts subsume. Sex is a union of two bodies, two souls and two minds cemented by love and dependency for one another. It cannot be compared with flirting and adultery.
What the court may have overlooked is that the nation constitutes of 80% Hindus, for whom marriage is still a sacred religious affair that could continue up to seven lives. Rationalists may laugh it off, and the court too may want evidence to be produced for seven lives for admitting revision petitions. The marriage anniversary of Hindu gods that are celebrated each year is to symbolise the importance and the sanctity of the inseparable bond though wedlock.
More than a marital contract of living together, marriage becomes social evidence of an orderly society. One can live together without marriage, love as deeply and bear children too. But more such cases, I guess could be outside the institution of marriage and of adulterous nature, with men keeping women on the sly and dumping at will. While it is easy to divorce in other religions, divorce is still alien to Hinduism as marriages are meant to last a lifetime and beyond.
Hindu Marriages are a sacred covenant in the presence of gods when the groom takes an oath to protect her for the rest of her life. The modernism has changed much of the traditional beliefs and religion is no more centric in our lives as it used to be. The judgement has struck some core beliefs and concepts of tradition, which could see more brazen adulterous affairs and divorce suits in the future.
The irrelevance of religion and traditions have been sanctified by the judiciary, fortifying our pretensions of modernity and advancement!