Whether SC Judgment of 2018 Declaring Adultery Unconstitutional Applicable to Cases Pending Before 2018?

Recently, the Jharkhand High Court ruled that the 2018 judgement of Apex Court declaring adultery u/s 497 of IPC as unconstitutional in the Jospeh Shrine case, applies to all pending cases, even concerning offences that were committed before the Court struck down the provision.

Justice Anubha Rawat Chaudhary observed that as per Article 141 of the Constitution, any law declared by the Apex Court is binding on all subordinate courts and would also apply to all pending proceedings.

Therefore, the Court set aside the 2008 judgment of the Trial Court and 2013 judgements of the Sessions Court convicting the accused of adultery, stating that the conviction cannot be sustained since the Apex Court had quashed Section 497 unconstitutional.

The Sessions Court had affirmed the conviction in 2013 against which the present revision petition was filed in the High Court. The petitioner’s counsel argued that since Section 497 was held unconstitutional by the Apex Court in Joseph Shine vs UOI, therefore no conviction as per the provision could be sustainable.

A reference was also made to Bombay HC’s in Rupesh vs Shri Charandas, wherein the judgement in the Joseph Shine case was followed, and Section 497 was set aside.

Before the Supreme Court, the State did not dispute the unconstitutionality of the Section 498 IPC.

The Court placed reliance on Major Gen. AS Gauraya vs SN Thakur to rule that the 2018 Supreme Court’s judgement would apply to pending proceedings of past crimes.

As per the Court, since the judgement was pronounced pendency of the revision petition, the precedent would be binding. 

Therefore, the Bench set aside the conviction order.

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