A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court, today, in a insthoric judgement partially struck down the British-era law which criminalises consensual homosexual sex in India. While reading his judgment on Section 377 of the IPC, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra noted, “Section 377 is arbitrary. LGBT community possess rights like others. Majoritarian views and popular morality cannot dictate constitutional rights.”
Section 377 refers to ‘unnatural offences’ and says whoever 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 of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine.
“An individual has full liberty over his or her body and his or her sexual orientation is a matter of one’s choice,” said Chief Justice Dipak Misra, while reading out the judgment. “Time to bid adieu to prejudicial perceptions deeply ingrained in social mindset. Time to empower LGBTIQ community against discrimination. They should be allowed to make their choices,” he added.
“The government must give wide publicity and government officers should be sensitised on LGBTs,” said Justice DY Chandrachud. And Justice Indu Malhotra said, “History owes apology to the LGBT community for their sufferings.”
The court termed the 2013 judgment constitutionally impermissible. The apex court was hearing a clutch of petitions challenging criminalisation of homosexuality. Other judges are the benchare Justices R F Nariman and A M Khanwilkar. The bench had reserved its verdict in the case on July 17. The verdict was on five petitions moved by dancer Navtej Jauhar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hoteliers Aman Nath and Keshav Suri and business executive Ayesha Kapur.
During the four-day hearing earlier this year, the Centre had said it would not contest the petitions, and left the decision to the “wisdom of the court”. In its affidavit, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “I state and submit that so far as the constitutional validity (of) Section 377 to the extent it applies to ‘consensual acts of adults in private’ is concerned, the Union of India would leave the said question to the wisdom of this Hon’ble Court.”
“Welcome today’s landmark ruling by Supreme Court. Sexual orientation and gender expression form integral part of individual’s identity the world over and violence, stigma and discrimination based on these attributes constitute an egregious violation of human rights,” says United Nations.