The Centre on Wednesday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court opposing a public interest litigation plea that seeks to make women and men equally liable for adultery, The Times of India reported. At present, Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code is applicable only to men who have sexual relations with a woman, who is not their wife.

The Centre told the court that Section 497 “supports, safeguards and protects the institution of marriage”. Striking it down will “prove to be detrimental to the intrinsic Indian ethos which gives paramount importance to the institution and sanctity of marriage,” Live Law reported, quoting from the affidavit.

The government pointed out that the Law Commission of India is examining the matter at present. The commission is identifying certain focus areas and forming sub-groups, it added.

The Supreme Court last year asked the government why only the man is liable for adultery. In January, it referred the matter to a Constitution bench, which is hearing the case at present. In 2011, the top court said the law was biased against men and the provision reduces a married woman to a property of the husband.

In 1985, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by then Chief Justice YV Chandrachud upheld the provision’s constitutionality. Three decades later, his son, Justice DY Chandrachud, said while admitting the case that the wife cannot be treated as a commodity by leaving her at the husband’s discretion.