New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) The Centre has pleaded in the Supreme Court that a 2018 apex court judgment to decriminalise adultery under the Indian Penal Code should not be applicable to the armed forces, contending that this verdict may cause instability within the defence forces.
A bench headed by Justice R.F. Nariman and comprising Justices Navin Sinha and K.M. Joseph issued notice in the matter and sent the case to the Chief Justice for listing it before a five-Judge bench. In 2018, a five-judge bench headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra had decriminalised adultery under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, noting that it can only be a ground for divorce.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, representing the Defence Ministry, submitted that armed force personnel can be dismissed from service on the ground of unbecoming conduct on account of adultery with brother officers’ spouses.
The Centre argued that the top court verdict on adultery may cause instability within the armed forces, as defence personnel were expected to function in peculiar conditions. “The support system to families is provided by creation of ‘Field Area Family Accommodation’, where families are cared for by local formations and units while their spouses are away serving in forward locations, very often in combat situations,” said the application filed by Ministry of Defence.
The Centre emphasised that during the course of their service, defence personnel many times stayed away from their families for long durations, as a result of their posting on borders or other far-flung areas.
Citing the top court verdict, it argued that there will always be a concern in the minds of the army personnel who are operating far away from their families under challenging conditions about the family indulging in untoward activity.
After a brief hearing, Justice Nariman said that the matter would be placed before a five-Judge Bench as deemed fit by the Chief Justice of India. “Since the clarification is on a Constitution bench decision, it is appropriate that the Chief Justice issues orders to post this matter before a bench of five judges,” the bench said in its order.
The Centre’s plea said: “it can be seen that in cases of adultery, even if there is a charge against the accused in either of the sections for unbecoming conduct or violation of good order and military discipline, then in that case, an argument may be raised that we are circumventing the law and what could not be done directly in view of aforesaid judgment dated 27.09.2018, is being done indirectly.”