NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday declared that armed forces can take court martial proceedings against their officers for adulterous acts, while clarifying the landmark 2018 judgement that decriminalised adultery.
A Constitution bench headed by Justice K M Joseph said its 2018 judgement was not concerned with the provisions of the armed forces acts.
The court also pointed out Article 33 of the Constitution provided exemption to legislations governing armed forces from applicability of the fundamental rights.
Acting on a plea filed by NRI Joseph Shine, the top court had in 2018 had struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code dealing with the offence of adultery, holding it unconstitutional.
On Tuesday, the bench, also comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and C T Ravikumar made the clarification upon hearing Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, appearing for the Centre.
The court also noted it had no occasion to consider the effects upon the armed forces.
The Defence Ministry had sought a clarification, seeking an exemption to armed forces from the September 27, 2018 judgement striking down adultery.
The government said the judgement may hinder action against officers who indulged in such actions and can cause 'instability' within the services.
"In view of the 2018 judgement, 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 activities," the application said.
Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, who appeared for petitioner Shine, opposed the Centre's plea as not maintainable.
In September, 2022, the court had orally said the armed forces should have disciplinary proceedings against their officers for adultery, saying it creates pain in the family.
Maintaining that family is the unit of the society and everybody is dependent on it, the court had said adultery can shake the discipline in the armed forces, which is of paramount importance.
The court had also emphasised 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.