As the century-old adultery law was scrapped by a constitution bench of the Supreme Court today, it became the second instance of Chandrachud vs Chandrachud — or father vs son.
Justice DY Chandrachud was among the five judges who called Section 497, the law that punishes men and not women for adultery, unconstitutional and scrapped it.
In 1985, it was his father Justice YV Chandrachud who had ruled that the law — which punishes men for affairs with women “without the consent or connivance of their husbands” — is constitutionally valid.
Any law that does not treat women equally or give them dignity cannot be constitutional, the court said today, countering that view.
“Sexual autonomy of a woman cannot be compromised, it’s her right and there cannot be any conditions,” Justice DY Chandrachud said, asserting that the adultery law destroyed women’s dignity and rights as she was treated as the property of her husband.
In 1985, his father’s views had been completely different while ruling on the petition of a woman whose husband had moved court against the man she had an affair with. The woman had said that the law was a flagrant instance of gender discrimination.
Justice Chandrachud senior had said it is commonly accepted that it is the man who is the seducer and not the woman. He also believed criminalising adultery “promotes the stability of marriages, and that was not an ideal to be scorned.”
Last year, Justice DY Chandrachud had overruled his father’s judgement on privacy, calling it “seriously flawed”.
During the 1975 Emergency, when fundamental rights were suspended by the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government, a five-judge Supreme Court bench had backed it saying privacy was not a fundamental right for citizens. The bench had included Justice YV Chandrachud.
Overturning that ruling in August last, Justice Chandrachud’s son DY Chandrachud, wrote: “The judgements rendered by four judges are flawed. Life and personal liberty are inalienable to human rights. No civilised state can contemplate encroachment on life and personal liberty.”
YV Chandrachud was the longest-serving Chief Justice of India.