Union minister Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday said the Supreme Court verdict upholding a law criminalizing homosexuality was "retrograde" and wondered why it is a crime if two consenting men and two consenting women share physical relations.
"Personally, I think it is a retrograde judgment and it has not done justice to a modern liberal India. If two consenting men and two consenting women ... why should be illegal," Ramesh said reacting to the apex court verdict.
"It is choice issue ... personal choice ... it is a liberal society, a modern society ... a society that gives choice to individual ... suddenly if it is illegal ....?," the rural development minister said.
His statement came as the government on Wednesday indicated that it will take the legislative route to deal with the issue.
The apex court in its verdict put the ball in Parliament's court to decide on the desirability of deleting the relevant section from Indian Penal Code.
Ramesh said he supports the Delhi high court's verdict which had in 2009 decriminalized gay sex among consenting adults in private.
"I thought AP Shah was on the right track," he said. A two-member bench of the high court comprising justice A P Shah and Justice S Muralidhar had decriminalized gay sex as provided in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and had ruled that sex between two consenting adults in private would not be an offence.
'SC ruling on homosexuality worst setback for gay movement'
The Supreme Court's ruling making consensual same-sex conduct between adults a criminal offence is the "worst setback" experienced by the global gay movement, a British expert said .
"The ruling is the worst setback experienced by global Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender movement (LGBT) movement in recent years and it is quite shocking judgment because it clearly reverses the Delhi high court ruling of 2009 and goes against the pattern of global change in relation to human rights," Mathew Waites, a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, said.
"India is particularly important in relation to the Commonwealth because in Commonwealth there are 53 states of which 41 criminalize same sex behaviour and only a few countries have decriminalized," Waites, who co-edited "Human rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth", said.
"Section 377 is a legacy of the British colonialism and it should be read down," he said.
The Supreme Court said Parliament is authorized to delete section 377 of IPC but till the time this penal provision is there, the court cannot legalise this kind of sexual relationship.
In its verdict, the court upheld the constitutional validity of the penal provision making gay sex an offence punishable with up to life imprisonment.
In 2009, the Delhi high court in a verdict had decriminalized gay sex among consenting adults in private.
The apex court allowed the appeals filed by various social and religious organizations challenging the high court verdict on the ground that gay sex is against the cultural and religious values of the country.