The Supreme Court on Thursday said that adultery creates pain in the family and the armed forces should have disciplinary proceedings against their officers for the offence.
A five-judge bench, headed by Justice K.M. Joseph, said adultery can shake discipline, which is of paramount importance, in the armed forces, while adding that family is the unit of the society and everybody is dependent on it.
“This conduct can shake up the life of the officers,” noted the bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and C.T. Ravikumar, adding that the integrity of society is based on the faithfulness of one spouse to another.
The bench made these observations after Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, representing the Centre, submitted that a plea seeking clarification of the 2018 judgment has been filed.
It further added that armed forces must have some kind of mechanism for disciplinary proceedings against their officers for adultery and this issue should not be taken lightly.
In 2018, the top court, on a plea filed by NRI Joseph Shine, struck down Section 497 of the IPC, dealing with the offence of adultery, holding it unconstitutional.
During the hearing on Thursday, the top court said the 2018 verdict cannot be referred to halt disciplinary proceedings against guilty.
The Ministry of Defence had moved the Supreme Court contending that the 2018 judgment could come in the way of action against armed forces officers convicted for adulterous acts.
The top court was informed that disciplinary actions taken in the Army are gender neutral.
The bench said: “Adultery creates pain in a family. We have held so many sessions as judges in the high courts and seen so many families torn.”
Emphasising on the aspect of hate associated with adultery, the bench cited a case where a mother, who committed adultery, filed a habeas corpus plea seeking custody of her children but the children declined to speak to her.
The bench further added that armed forces must have some kind of assurance that action will be taken and it should not be the scenario that by citing Joseph Shine (2018 judgment), it is claimed that nothing can be done, as it was informed that the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) quashed disciplinary proceedings against certain army personnel charged with adultery, citing the judgement.
The bench told the Centre’s counsel that it can challenge the individual orders of the AFT.
After hearing arguments, the top court has scheduled the matter for further hearing on December 6.