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Supreme Court makes gay sex illegal again

Sex between consenting homosexual partners is once again illegal in India after the Supreme Court overturned the Delhi High Court’s ruling in 2009. Setting aside the Delhi High Court verdict of 2009, the apex court bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice SJ Mukhopadhayay said there was no constitutional room for change in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 377 of the IPC holds that same-gender sexual relationship is against the order of the nature and is an offence. The apex court by its ruling yesterday upheld the constitutional validity of the section. The Delhi High Court by its verdict, which the apex court has now set aside, had decriminalised the sexual relationship between consenting adults of the same gender under Section 377. It was up to parliament, the court said, to decide whether or not to keep the law in the statute books. 

Law Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters outside parliament: “It is the prerogative of the Supreme Court to judge the constitutionality and validity of the law. The opinion of the Supreme Court must be respected by the government. They have exercised their prerogative, we shall exercise ours.”

‘Black day’
Gay rights activists have described yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling as ‘disappointing’ and said they will approach the court to review its decision. Gay activist Ashok Row Kavi said that with this verdict, “We are back to square one”. “But we will fight for our rights. It is essential to note that this has nothing to do with morality and religion. We are just asking for inclusive rights in the society. This is just a type of orientation a lot of people are involved in,” he added.
“Such a decision was totally unexpected from the top court. It is a black day,” Arvind Narrain, a lawyer for the Alternative Law Forum gay rights group, told reporters.

“We are very angry about this regressive decision of the court,” he said. Activist Sohini Ghosh described the judgment as “not just a betrayal to the LGBT community, but a betrayal to the values that are enshrined in the constitution”. “The only thing that I want to say is that fight will go on, and we will fight till the bitter end,” she said.

Pallav Patankar from the Humsafar Trust feels that the verdict is a big blow to the community. “The Supreme Court has put the decision back to parliament, and the reason it went to the SC was because parliament refused to discuss issues related to alternate sexuality. There is a need to address the issue,” he said.

Welcomed move
However, the ruling has been welcomed by religious groups, particularly leaders of Muslim and Christian communities, who had challenged the Delhi High Court order. “The Supreme Court has upheld the century-old traditions of India, the court is not suppressing any citizen, instead it is understanding the beliefs and values of the large majority of the country,” said Zafaryab Jilani, member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. At a press conference on Wednesday in Delhi, Ramdev invited ‘the gay community’ to his yoga ashram, where he would “cure them of homosexuality”, which he described as ‘unnatural, uncivilised, immoral, irreligious and abnormal’ by ‘keeping them in a room with a heterosexual for a few days’.

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