Afternoon Voice

#Section377: Supreme Court’s verdict favours Homosexuality

Participants dance under a a rainbow flag as they attend the sixth Delhi Queer Pride parade, an event promoting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, in New Delhi November 24, 2013. Hundreds of participants on Saturday took part in a parade demanding freedom and safety of their community, according to a media release. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal (INDIA)

In a landmark judgement, after months of deliberations, the Supreme Court on Thursday struck down the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which criminalised homosexuality.

A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Rohinton Fali Nariman, A M Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra, issued the verdict on a bunch of petitions filed to scrap the law. The bench had earlier reserved its verdict on July 17.

Criminalising gay sex is irrational and indefensible, observed the CJI while delivering the verdict. The Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community has same rights as any other citizen, the CJI added. Respect for each other’s rights and others are supreme humanity, observed the bench unanimously while saying that the right to live with dignity is right.

Known as Section 377 of the IPC, the 157-year-old law criminalised certain sexual acts, terming them as ‘unnatural offences’, punishable by a 10-year jail term.

The law punished “carnal inter­course against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” and thus had bigger implications for same-sex relationships.

The legal battle to scrap the statute has gone on for several years.

The Delhi High Court, in 2009, decriminalised homosexuality. But in 2013, the Supreme Court restored the colonial-era law. Three years later, the top court agreed to hear the Section 377 petition once more.

Petitioners before the Supreme Court argued that the controversial law was not in tandem with a 2017 ruling that guaranteed the right to privacy to people.

During the hearing in July, the government told the apex court that it would leave to the wisdom of the court to decide the constitutional validity of Section 377.