Diluting Section 377 by unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court on Thursday said LGBTQ community has the same fundamental rights as other citizens. This marks the end of a long legal battle supporting homosexuality.
Section 377 refers to ‘unnatural offences’. It states that whosoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine.
At least 32 individuals had filed petitions to scrap Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, including celebrities, IITians and LGBT activists. A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had earlier reserved its verdict on July 17 after hearing several petitioners, including gay rights activists.
While reserving judgment, the bench made it clear that no one should be under the impression that it will scrap Section 377 altogether as it will lead to anarchy and rise in crimes relating to forced unnatural acts. The Centre initially had sought the adjournment for filing its response to the petitions, but later left to the wisdom of the court the issue of the legality of the penal provision with regard to aspects of criminalising consensual unnatural sex between two consenting adults.
The Centre had said that the other aspects of the penal provision dealing with minors and animals should be allowed to remain in the statute book.
The Supreme Court had in 2013 restored criminality of the sexual relationship between persons of the same sex, after the Delhi High Court’ had decriminalised it in 2009.
The five-judge bench on July 10 had made it clear that it was not going into the curative petitions and would adjudicate on fresh writ petitions in the matter. The writ petitions were opposed by the Apostolic Alliance of Churches, Utkal Christian Association and some other NGOs and individuals, including Suresh Kumar Kaushal, who had challenged the 2009 verdict of the high court in the apex court.
The issue of Section 377 raised by an NGO Naaz Foundation, which had in 2001 approached the Delhi High Court, seeking decriminalised sex between consenting adults of the same gender by holding the penal provision “illegal”.
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