Law Insider India

Legal News, Current Trends and Legal Insight | Supreme Court of India and High Courts

Joseph Shine V. Union of India (2018)

3 min read

Citation: Joseph Shine vs Union of India 2018 SC 1676

Date of Judgment: 27.09.2018

Equivalent Citation: AIR 2018 SUPREME COURT 4898, 2019 (3) SCC 39, 2019 CRI LJ 1, 2018 ALLMR(CRI) 4065, (2018) 11 SCALE 556, (2018) 252 DLT 388, (2018) 3 ALLCRIR 2955, (2018) 3 DMC 383, (2018) 3 HINDULR 537, (2018) 4 ALLCRILR 894, (2018) 4 CRILR(RAJ) 1043, (2018) 4 CRIMES 1, (2018) 4 CURCRIR 199, 2018 (4) KCCR SN 364 (SC), (2018) 4 MAD LJ(CRI) 369, (2018) 4 RECCRIR 480, (2018) 6 KANT LJ 465, (2018) 72 OCR 662, 2018 CRILR(SC MAH GUJ) 1043, 2018 CRILR(SC&MP) 1043, 2019 (106) ACC (SOC) 26 (SC), 2019 (1) ABR(CRI) 99, (2019) 2 BOMCR(CRI) 503, 2019 (2) SCC (CRI) 84, 2019 CALCRILR 1 481, AIR 2019 SC( CRI) 102, AIRONLINE 2018 SC 241

Case No: N/A

Case Type: Criminal Original Jurisdiction

Petitioner: Joseph Shine

Respondent: Union of India


  • Hon’ble Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra,
  • Hon’ble Justice R.F Nariman,
  • Hon’ble Justice A.M Khanwilkar,
  • Hon’ble Justice D.Y Chandrachud,
  • Hon’ble Justice Indu Malhotra.

Court: Supreme Court of India

Statutes Referred:

  • Article 14,15, 21 of Indian Constitution
  • Section 497 of Indian Penal Code
  • Section 198 of Code of Criminal Procedure

Cases Referred:

  • Yusuf Abdul Aziz vs. State of Bombay (1954) SCR 930,
  • Sowmithri Vishnu v. Union of India & Anr. (1985) Supp SCC 137,
  • V. Revathi vs. Union of India (1988) 2 SCC 72
  • W. Kalyani vs. State through Inspector of Police and another (2012) 1 SC 358


  • The constitutional validity of section 497 of IPC was challenged by petitioner Joseph Shine.
  • The writ petition was filed under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution of India read with section 198 of Code of Criminal Procedure arguing that these provisions are violative of article 14,15, and 21 of Indian Constitution.

Issues Involved

  • Whether Article 14,15,21 of the Indian Constitution are violated by section 497 of Indian Penal Code.

Contentions of Petitioner

The counsel for petitioner contended that –

  • Several aspects of section 497 were addressed by the counsel of petitioner that violated fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14,15 and 21 of Constitution as the provisions are paternalistic and arbitrary in nature.
  • The punishment for women was not provided. The law only specified punishment for men.
  • There were no legal provisions under this section of adultery for women to file a complaint against her husband which violated Article 15 of Constitution.
  • As per the provision the crime of adultery was not committed if husband gave his consent, hence women was treated as husband’s property or object.
  • This provision violates Article 21 because it diminishes a woman’s dignity by disregarding her sexual autonomy and self-determination. Moreover, revealing such private information also violates Right to Privacy as engaging in a sexual activity is a private act.

Contentions of Respondents

The counsel for respondent contended that –

  • Deterrence should be there to safeguard the institution of marriage because adultery is an offense that destroys family ties.
  • The fundamental right of Right to Life and Personal Liberty is not an absolute right thus reasonable restricts can be imposed when it comes to public welfare.


The Supreme Court declared Section 497 unconstitutional, violating fundamental rights under Articles 14, 15, and 21.

  • Section 198 of the CrPC, insofar as it applied to Section 497 IPC, was also held unconstitutional.
  • The Court decriminalized adultery, overruling previous decisions that upheld its criminalization.
  • Adultery remained a valid ground for divorce.

Ratio decidendi

  • Women are exempt from penalties for assisting and abetting under Section 497, protected by Article 15.
  • Article 15(3) shields women from patriarchy, and Section 497 is based on patriarchy and paternalism.
  • Article 21 upholds the dignity of sexual and personal privacy, and a woman, like anyone else, has the right to privacy and autonomy.

Obiter Dicta

The offence is based on notion that adultery is seen as theft to husband’s property as women are treated as husband’s property, because husband’s consent or agreement would not constitute offence. There can’t be male supremacy, patriarchal monarchy, or husband monarchy over wife.


The court, recognizing the need for legal reforms in the era of equality, declared adultery laws discriminatory and outdated. Courts should not interfere with an individual’s sexual autonomy, as adultery is a private matter protected by constitutional rights. As of now Adultery is no longer a criminal offense, but it remains a civil remedy for which divorce is available.

Drafted By: Palak Mehta

Published on: February 13, 2024 at 00:10 IST