One of the rarest convictions under Section 497 happened a week before it was struck down
Exactly a week before the Supreme Court judgment that decriminalised adultery, the Rajasthan High Court had upheld a man’s conviction under Section 497 of Indian Penal Code. Devaram might be the last person to suffer conviction under adultery provision which no longer exists in the penal statute.
This judgment is a rare one which upheld a conviction under Section 497. A TOI report, quoting some criminal lawyers, had opined that this Section hardly saw any conviction. It also said that the National Crime Records Bureau does not even maintain a base on adultery cases as instances are negligible and there is a low chance for conviction by courts.
This Section had got a mention in a Supreme Court judgment a year ago. Justice AM Khanwilkar had authored the judgment which dealt with non-framing of charge under Sections 497, 498 and 306 of IPC. But one can hardly find a judgment of the Supreme Court which deals with a conviction under this Section. However, the apex court had earlier considered the validity of provision in Yusuf Abdul Aziz v. State of Bombay, Sowmithri Vishnu v. Union of India, V. Revathi v. Union of India and W. Kalyani v. State through Inspector of Police.
Case Before Rajasthan HC
Heeralal had complained that his wife was residing with Devaram and that he was having an illicit relationship with her. He had accused his wife, Devaram and some others for abetting suicide of his daughter. It was also alleged that they all conspired to rape his daughter. The trial resulted in conviction.
Justice Pankaj Bhandari acquitted all the accused of conspiracy, rape, charges observing that there was every possibility of false implication as the complainant was having enmity with the accused.
But Devaram’s conviction under Section 497 was sustained and the reasons were as follows: “As far as Devaram is concerned, PW-3 Kailash Chand has deposed before the Court that he gave his house on rent on 06.02.2010 at the rate of Rs.2,100/- per month as Devaram told him that he would stay with his wife and with his two daughters, he has also stated that Devaram took the house on rent by showing Shakuntala as his wife. PW-12 prosecution has also deposed that Devaram and her mother were living as husband and wife. Also appellant Devaram was aware of the fact that Shakuntala is wife of Heera lal, still he took house of Kailash Chand showing Shakuntala as his wife. Thus, appellant Devaram has been rightly convicted for offence under Section 497 IPC by the trial Court.”
Interestingly, there is no much discussion in the judgment whether ‘sexual intercourse’ is proved or not. However, the high court has ordered his release in case he has already undergone the sentence.
Read the Judgment Here