Supreme Court Ruling on Adultery in Defence Forces

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Military legal experts have stated that the recent Supreme Court ruling on the decriminalization of adultery does not comment on the legality of the Army’s actions against individuals involved in such acts. The court clarified that its 2018 judgement, which struck down Section 497 of the IPC criminalizing adultery, did not address the provisions of the armed forces acts. The court specifically mentioned that military discipline could be compromised if the army had “completely loose morals.”

An anonymous advocate specializing in military legal matters explained that the Supreme Court’s ruling did not address the Army’s punishment for adultery under specific provisions of the Army Act. The advocate stated that the Army can continue with its procedures for punishing adultery, but if the Army’s actions are challenged before the court, the situation may change.

The Army currently punishes adultery under Sections 45 and 63 of the Army Act, which deal with the conduct of officers and acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline, respectively. Colonel Amit Kumar (retd) emphasized that immoral conduct and adultery in the armed forces go against service ethos and customs.

Colonel Kumar suggested that an Army Order of the Chief of Army Staff should be issued to specify acts and actions for punishment under the Army Act. He also proposed the possibility of amending the Army Act to address adultery, but acknowledged the challenges and potential misuse in marital discord cases.

Former Judge Advocate General officers recommended resolving pending adultery cases in the military through administrative termination of services. However, questions have been raised about the nature of immoral conduct and adultery, and who has the authority to determine the severity of such acts.

There have been instances where both male and female officers in the military have been punished for adultery, with punishment ranging from dismissal from service to rigorous imprisonment. Although there was an attempt to amend the Army, Navy, and Air Force Acts to incorporate punishment for adultery, progress on this initiative has been slow.

In its recent verdict, the Constitution bench clarified that the 2018 judgment only addressed the validity of Section 497 of the IPC and had no impact on the Army, Navy, and Air Force Acts.

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