The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday ruled that homosexuality is an offence under the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and hence can not be legalized. The apex court had set aside a previous ruling by the Delhi High Court in 2009 that decriminalized homosexuality on the ground that IPC’s Section 377 was discriminatory and could not provide justice to the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community.
Who said what about Supreme Court’s ban on homsexuality. The division bench comprising of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhyay delivered the judgment while hearing a petition filed by senior BJP leader late BP Singhal against Delhi High Court’s ruling decriminalizing homosexuality.
The apex court stand on the issue has quite predictably drawn sharp criticism from LGBT activists and sympathizers across the world.
“We are disappointed with the judgement. We think the judgement is not correct in law. We will take appropriate legal recourse,” senior advocate Anand Grover who was representing NGO Naz foundation on the case, stated.
“Kya yeh crime hai ki ek bachcha lesbian ya gay paida hota hai (is it a crime that a child is born a lesbian or gay)? Yeh toh natural feeling hota hai (this is a natural feeling). Yeh kisi ka hak nahi hai ki LGBT ya gays pe dosh lagaya jai (no one has the right to blame LGBTs or gays),” said LGBT activists protesting against the verdict, Time of India reports.
The political establishment also seems to be divided on the issue. While the Indian National Congress seems to be in a more favorable position for LGBT rights in the country, chief opposition party the BJP is yet to make its stand clear.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has reversed a previous Delhi High Court ruling on the issue of gay rights. The HC had wisely removed an archaic, repressive and unjust law that infringed on basic human rights enshrine din our Constitution. This Constitution has given us a great legacy, a legacy of liberalism of openness, that enjoin us to combat prejudice and discrimination of any kind. We are proud that our culture has always been an inclusive and tolerant one. The SC also suggested another course,” Congress President Sonia Gandhi said.
“I hope the Parliament will address this issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India, including those affected by this judgement,” Mrs Gandhi added.
Other senior Congress leaders also commented that the verdict by the apex court was unfortunate and a step backward for the country’s social fabric.
“It is the prerogative of the Supreme Court under the Constitution to test the constitutionality of a law. They are exercising their prerogative. We have the prerogative to make laws. We shall exercise our prerogative,” Kapil Sibal, Law Minister in the Government of India told reporters in New Delhi.
While the government is hinting towards the legislative route, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said, any such “legislation will take time since there is no consensus.”
Senior BJP leader and leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj asked the government to her party will make its stand clear only after an all party meeting on the issue.
“Call an all-party meeting on Section 377 and we’ll discuss this issue after that,” said Swaraj.
Meanwhile, BJP spokeswoman Meenakshi Lekhi was earlier quoted by the LiveMint as saying. “We welcome the decision of the court because it is important that Section 377 remains. It is not only women who can be exploited and harassed but men also get exploited so there is a need for a law to protect men too.”
Several other organizations including the Protection of Child Right, Joint Action Council, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munn Kazhgam, and many other religious and child welfare organizations and activists welcomed the verdict.
“We know that homosexuality is against nature,” general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Abdul Raheem Quraishi, said, adding, “it goes against all its laws and it is what led to the spread of HIV/AIDS.” Hindustan Times reports.
Bollywood, on the other hand, seems to have aligned itself towards the LGBT community. Seasoned actor Amitabh Bachan wrote in his blog, “The Supreme Court has passed judgement that homosexuality is a crime .. and that has triggered a massive reaction among those that have till now had the preference of choice, as per human rights, to lead their life the way they wish to .. I wonder where this shall lead to ..”