New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court that its 2018 verdict decriminalizing colonial-era offence of adultery under the Indian Penal Code be not made applicable to armed forces.

A bench comprising Justices R F Nariman, Navin Sinha, and K M Joseph, after issuing the notice to the PIL petitioner one Joseph Shine and others on the Centre's plea, referred the matter to Chief Justice S A Bobde for setting up of a five-judge Constitution Bench which can clarify the position.

Issue notice. Since the clarification is on a Constitution Bench decision, it is appropriate that the Chief Justice issues orders to post this matter before a bench of five Judges. The Registry is directed to place the matter before the Chief Justice for appropriate orders, the bench said in its order.

During the hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal said that under the relevant rules of armed forces, adultery is a ground for court-martial for unbecoming conduct and therefore armed forces should be exempted from the purview of the 2018 judgment of the Constitution Bench.

He said that a clarification is needed in this regard from the top court on the applicability of the verdict in armed forces.

In a path-breaking verdict, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by the then CJI Dipak Misra unanimously struck down Section 497 (adultery) of the Indian Penal Code and declared that adultery is not a crime and the penal provision was unconstitutional as it dented the individuality of women and treated them as "chattel of husbands".

The apex court, in a September 2018 judgment, however, had said that adultery would continue to be a ground for seeking a divorce in matrimonial disputes.

The Centre, in its interim plea filed in a disposed of PIL of Joseph Shine, has sought clarification and a direction that the judgment is not made applicable on special statutes and rules governing the armed forces which take actions on its personnel for indulging in adulterous relationships to ensure discipline in forces.

It has been said when jawans and officers are posted in forwarding inhospitable areas, their families are taken care of at base camp by other officers, and the laws and rules, providing actions for indulging in adulterous or promiscuous activity, help in maintaining discipline.

An armed forces personnel can be cashiered from service on grounds of unbecoming conduct for committing adultery with a colleague's wife, it said.

Section 497 of the IPC says: "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 to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery."

Adultery was punishable by a maximum of five years in jail or a fine or both.

Striking down the law, the apex court had said that section 497 of the IPC was manifestly arbitrary, archaic law which is violative of the rights to equality and equal opportunity to women.

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New Delhi: India recorded the lowest number of coronavirus fatalities in over eight months with 131 more deaths being recorded, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

The COVID-19 caseload rose to 1,06,67,736 with 13,203 more infections. There are 1,84,182 active cases, which is 1.73 per cent of the caseload and it remained below 2 lakh for the sixth consecutive day, according to the ministry data.

As many as 1,03,30,084 people have recuperated, taking the recovery rate to 96.83 per cent,.

The fatality rate rose to 1.4 per cent and 131 more deaths include 45 from Maharashtra, 20 from Kerala, nine from Delhi and eight each from Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh.

A total of 1,53,470 deaths have been reported so far in the country, including 50,785 from Maharashtra, followed by 12,316 in Tamil Nadu, 12,197 in Karnataka, 10,808 in Delhi, 10,115 in West Bengal, 8,617 in Uttar Pradesh and 7,147 in Andhra Pradesh.

According to the ICMR, 19.23 crore tests have been conducted so far with 5,70,246 samples being tested on Sunday. The ministry stressed that more than 70 per cent of the deaths occurred due to comorbidities.

"Our figures are being reconciled with the Indian Council of Medical Research," the ministry said on its website, adding that statewide distribution of figures was subject to further verification and reconciliation.