India’s top court says adultery no longer criminal offense

India’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has presided over a string of verdicts in recent weeks that grant more rights to women, gay couples and religious minorities, challenging deeply-conservative Indian society as he prepares to retire from the bench next month.

The latest decision came Thursday when Chief Justice Dipak Misra and the rest of the five-member court struck down a 158-year-old law that treated adultery in certain cases as a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison.

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The court called the law, which did not allow a wife to prosecute an adulterous husband, unconstitutional and noted that a “husband is not the master of woman.” Adultery can still be grounds for divorce in India, the verdict said, but a criminal penalty violated women’s protection to equal rights under the law.

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