The Madras High Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to find out if exposure to “mega television serials” and movies nowadays are responsible for extramarital affairs. The court was hearing a case of a spat that led to the death of a woman’s two lovers, Bar and Bench reported.

“Extra-marital relationship has become a dangerous social evil nowadays,” a bench of Justice N Kirubakaran and Abdul Quddhose observed. “Many heinous crimes including ghastly murders, assaults, kidnappings, etc, are committed because of clandestine relationships and they are alarmingly increasing day-by-day.”

The case involves a fight between two men, Joseph and Lokesh, who were allegedly in a relationship with the same woman. The fight led to Joseph’s death. Lokesh was detained under the Goondas Act, but one of his associates, Ajith, moved the High Court to get the detention quashed. The court quashed the detention order on Tuesday.

The court also posed 20 questions to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the government of Tamil Nadu. “Is it a fact that the mega television serials and cinemas are major reasons for the increase in scandalous relationships in our country?” the court asked. Another query is whether economic independence of both spouses is responsible for the rise in extramarital affairs. A third asked the respondents whether social media platforms are allowing “many strangers to get connected”, and another whether the alcoholism of men was responsible for the rise in extramarital affairs.

“Marriage in India is based on love, faith, trust and legitimate expectation,” the court said. “The marital relationship is considered to be sacred. However, what is to be sacred is dangerously fast becoming scary shattering families due to outside conjugal relationship.”

The court suggested that a panel of retired judges and experts be set up to “analyse the social menace” and that family counselling centres be created in every district in the country, The Times of India reported. The court posted the matter for hearing next in the third week of June.

In September 2018, the Supreme Court struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised adultery. A five-judge Constitution bench held that Section 497 violates the right to equality and destroys the dignity of women.