SC strikes down Section 377; Being gay no longer a crime in India

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 06, 2018 12:29 hrs
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New Delhi: In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court on Thursday struck down section 377 of the IPC, the law that criminalizes homosexual act between consulting adults.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, issued the verdict on a clutch of petitions filed to scrap the British-era law which criminalizes consensual homosexual sex in India. The bench had earlier reserved its verdict on July 17.

Criminalizing 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 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.

Excerpts from Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra's judgment in Section 377 verdict:

"Only Constitutional morality and not social morality can be allowed to permeate rule of law... Sexual orientation is one of the many natural phenomenon. Any discrimination on basis of sexual orientation amounts to violation of fundamental rights. After judgement in Puttuswamy case, privacy has been raised to fundamental right."

"The identity of individual is very important. Prejudice and social stigma still affects a certain section of society. Progressive and inclusive realisation must embrace all. Heterogeneous fibre of the society must be maintained. Constitutional morality can't be equated with popular sentiments."

People, on the other hand, are expressing their views and happiness over the historic judgement by the Supreme Court.

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