Section 377: Homosexual behaviour remains a crime
New Delhi – All homosexual behaviour will continue to be regarded as a crime in India, with the Supreme Court on Tuesday refusing to revisit a controversial ruling that upheld a Victorian era law.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code makes all unnatural sexual acts against the order of nature a crime, but the Delhi High Court had read down its scope to keep all adult consensual activity out of its ambit, saying that societal mores had changed.
The top court had, however, overturned the HC decision in December 2013, outraging the gay community and wide sections of the public, apart from rights activists.
Section 377 was not targeted at any class, but was designed to protect minors and women against coercive, non-consensual sexual acts, said a bench comprising Supreme Court justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhaya.
On Tuesday, another bench, comprising Mukhopadhaya and justice HL Dattu, who is in line to be chief justice in the future, dismissed a host of petitions seeking a review of that ruling.
Among those who had sought a review were the government, film director Shyam Benegal, academician Nivedita Menon, the Naz Foundation NGO and a forum representing the parents of people who were gay.
The community’s only hope now is an ordinance but garnering support for the move ahead of the 2014 polls might prove impossible given the paucity of time and their lack of numbers.
Senior advocate Anand Grover of Naz Foundation did not rule out filing a curative petition to overturn the ruling . Should they decide there’s a preliminary case for a review, the issue will be heard again in open court.
Those spearheading the LGBT community’s demand for dignity and basic human rights include writer Vikram Seth and theatre personality Chitra Palekar.
The top court had in December tossed the ball into the government’s court regarding the demand by the community to change the law to keep them out of the ambit of the section, which carries a jail term of 10 years to a life term.