The armed forces must have a mechanism for disciplinary proceedings against army officers for adultery: SC

The Supreme Court on Thursday said the armed forces must have some sort of mechanism in place for disciplinary proceedings against army officers for adultery, as “this is conduct that can shatter the lives of officers”.

The Supreme Court said adultery creates “pain” in a family and should not be treated in a lenient way.

“In uniformed services, discipline is paramount. This is behavior that can shatter the lives of officers. All are ultimately dependent on the family as a social unit. The integrity of society is based on the fidelity of one spouse to the other.”

“This (adultery) will shake discipline in the armed forces. The armed forces must have some kind of certainty that they will act. How can you quote Joseph Shine (judgment) and say it can’t be,” said a five-judge constitutional bench led by Justice KM Joseph.

It said the 2018 Apex Court ruling, which found the criminal provision on adultery unconstitutional, could not be used to drop disciplinary proceedings against those found guilty.

“Adultery causes pain in a family. We have held so many sessions as Supreme Court Justices and seen families torn apart. We tell you not to treat this in a lighter way. There was one incident where the mother who committed adultery filed a custody review application for her children. They (children) refused to speak to the mother. That’s the kind of hate that happens,” observed the bench.

In 2018, the Supreme Court, on a plea brought by NRI Joseph Shine, voided Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which dealt with the offense of adultery but found it unconstitutional.

The bench’s comments, which included Justices Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar, came after Additional Attorney General Madhavi Divan, who appeared for the center, filed a motion she filed seeking clarification on the 2018 ruling would have.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) had moved the Supreme Court on the grounds that the September 27, 2018 judgment criminalizing adultery could lead to members of the armed forces being convicted of adulterous acts.

She told the bank that disciplinary action had been taken against certain army personnel for adultery, but that the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) had overturned many such cases, citing the Joseph Shine judgment.

“We are working to ensure that the deletion of Section 497 does not prevent the armed forces from taking action against officers for improper conduct,” Divan said.

The ASG told the Supreme Court that disciplinary procedures in the army are gender-neutral and even if a female officer is found to be engaging in adulterous activities, she will also be charged with misconduct. The Supreme Court said there was nothing in the 2018 ruling barring the armed forces and it could challenge the AFT’s individual orders.

The ASG was looking for time to go through the 2018 judgment in detail. The Supreme Court then issued the case for trial on December 6th.

Comments are closed.