The Supreme Court on Tuesday clarified that its 2018 judgement which decriminalised adultery exempts disciplinary proceedings against armed forces officials accused of adulterous conduct, reported Live Law.

In 2018, a Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had unanimously declared that Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which made adultery a criminal offence, is unconstitutional.

Section 497 is a Victorian provision of the Indian Penal Code, which said: “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery and shall be punished.”

On Tuesday, a Constitution bench of Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and CT Ravikumar clarified that the 2018 judgement did not deal with Sections 45 and 63 of the Army Act or similar provisions in the Navy and Air Force Acts, reported Bar and Bench.

Sections 45 and 63 of the Army Act pertain to punishment for unbecoming conduct and acts impeding military discipline.

“It is not as if this court approved of adultery,” the Supreme Court said. “It has found that it may be a civil wrong and will continue to be a ground for dissolution of marriage. This court was neither called upon nor has pronounced on Sections 45 and 63 of the Army Act and corresponding provisions of the other Acts.”

Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, appearing for the Centre, said that a number of cases where armed forces officials facing disciplinary proceedings for adultery, were citing the 2018 judgement as their defence, reported Bar and Bench.

Divan added that by seeking impunity under the 2018 judgement, accused armed forces officials are disturbing the unity of army units where authorities are left helpless when charges of adultery are sought to be quashed.