Landmark legal battle that brought about significant changes in gender justice and equality in India.

Joseph Shine v UOI, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676:

Decided On: September 27, 2018


Welcome to the official blog of the Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates, where we are dedicated to providing litigation support services for matters related to gender justice and equality in India. In today’s blog post, we aim to shed light on the prevailing issues surrounding Gender Justice and Equality, the legal framework for their protection, and the steps we can take as a society to combat these acts. Join us as we explore this critical subject and empower you with the knowledge to protect your rights and safety.

In the annals of Indian jurisprudence, the case of Joseph Shine v Union of India (UOI), 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676, holds a special place as a monumental legal battle that has significantly transformed the landscape of gender justice and gender equality in the country. This groundbreaking judgment challenged the constitutional validity of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), an archaic law that had long criminalized adultery. Joseph Shine, a non-resident Indian (NRI) and a fervent advocate for gender equality, took up the cause to decriminalize adultery and catalyze progressive changes in India’s legal framework. This article delves into the background of the Joseph Shine case, examines the profound insights provided by the Supreme Court, and explores the far-reaching impact of this judgment on women’s rights and the concept of marital equality in India.

The Historical Context

Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, established in 1860 during British colonial rule, criminalized adultery, specifically defining it as an offense committed by a man engaging in sexual intercourse with a married woman without her husband’s consent. This regressive law not only reduced married women to the status of their husbands’ property but also shielded them from criminal liability in cases of adultery. Consequently, Section 497 perpetuated a patriarchal narrative within society, curtailing women’s agency and autonomy.

Joseph Shine, an individual passionately dedicated to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the constitutionality of Section 497. His argument centered on the law’s violation of the fundamental principles of gender justice, equality, and individual autonomy enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

Landmark Supreme Court Rulings

The Supreme Court’s observations in the Joseph Shine case were revolutionary and paved the way for a more equitable society:

  1. Right to Equality and Non-Discrimination: The Court firmly reasserted that the right to equality, as enshrined in Article 14, guarantees equal protection under the law for both men and women. It declared that Section 497’s selective criminalization of men for adultery while exonerating women amounted to discrimination and was, therefore, unconstitutional.
  2. Individual Autonomy and Privacy: The judgment acknowledged that adults possess the right to make choices about their intimate relationships, and the state should not interfere unless it impacts the sanctity of marriage or society at large.
  3. Overturning of Section 497: The Court declared Section 497 of the IPC unconstitutional and struck it down, effectively decriminalizing adultery for both men and women.
  4. Marital Equality: The judgment emphasized the principle of marital equality, treating husbands and wives as equal partners in a marriage and holding them equally accountable for their actions.

Impact and Ongoing Challenges

The Joseph Shine case has had a profound impact on the legal and social landscape of India:

  • Decriminalization of Adultery: The judgment decriminalized adultery, recognizing that adults have the right to make choices about their relationships without state interference.
  • Enhanced Gender Justice: The case underscored the importance of gender justice and the need to challenge discriminatory laws perpetuating gender-based inequalities.
  • Empowerment of Women: The judgment empowered women by recognizing their agency and autonomy within marital relationships, breaking free from traditional notions that subjugated them.
  • Marital Equality: The judgment reinforced the concept of marital equality, fostering a more equitable partnership between spouses with shared responsibilities and mutual respect.
  • Legal Precedent: The case set a powerful legal precedent, inspiring further reforms in archaic laws that hinder gender justice and perpetuate gender stereotypes.

However, while the Joseph Shine case marked a significant step forward, challenges remain:

  • Changing Mindsets: Eradicating deeply ingrained patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes about women’s roles and agency requires ongoing efforts through education and awareness.
  • Social Acceptance: Achieving social acceptance and promoting progressive ideas about gender equality demand sustained awareness campaigns and inclusive dialogue.
  • Implementation: Ensuring effective implementation of the judgment and its practical implications is crucial for tangible change.

“Decriminalization of Adultery – The Supreme Court Reserves Its Decision on the Applicability of the 2018 Joseph Shine Judgment to Armed Forces Personnel”:

The Supreme Court, with a Constitution Bench consisting of Justices K.M. Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy, and C.T. Ravikumar, recently concluded its proceedings and reserved judgment on January 31, 2023.

The case in question pertained to an application submitted by the Department of Military Affairs, seeking clarification regarding a previous Constitution Bench judgment rendered on September 27, 2018, known as the Joseph Shine v. Union of India case (2019) 3 SCC 39, hereinafter referred to as the ‘2018 Judgment.’ In its 2018 judgment, while deliberating on the constitutional validity of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’), the Court made several noteworthy determinations:

  1. Section 497 of the IPC was found to contravene Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution and was subsequently invalidated.
  2. Section 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, was held to be unconstitutional in its application to the offense of Adultery under Section 497 of the IPC.
  3. The earlier decisions in Sowmithri Vishnu v. Union of India (1985) Supp SCC 137, V. Revathi v. Union of India (1988) 2 SCC 72, and W. Kalyani v. State (2012) 1 SCC 358 were effectively overruled by this judgment.


Joseph Shine v Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1676, stands as a beacon of hope and progress in India’s pursuit of gender justice, individual autonomy, and marital equality. The Supreme Court’s observations reaffirmed the principles of equality, non-discrimination, and individual freedom, emphasizing the need for laws to evolve with the changing dynamics of society. This case represents a seminal moment in the quest for a more equitable and just society, where gender-based discrimination finds no refuge. As India continues to progress, the Joseph Shine case will continue to inspire further efforts to dismantle regressive laws, ushering in a new era of gender justice and equality for all.

We are a law firm in the name and style of Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates at Gurugram and Rewari. We are providing litigation support services for matters related to the Constitution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This field is required.

This field is required.


The following disclaimer governs the use of this website (“Website”) and the services provided by the Law offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate & Associates in accordance with the laws of India. By accessing or using this Website, you acknowledge and agree to the terms and conditions stated in this disclaimer.

The information provided on this Website is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice or relied upon as such. The content of this Website is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Firm. Any reliance on the information provided on this Website is done at your own risk.

The Law Firm makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information contained on this Website.

The Law Firm disclaims all liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this Website or for any actions taken in reliance on the information provided herein. The information contained in this website, should not be construed as an act of solicitation of work or advertisement in any manner.