Supreme Court says gay sex is illegal, only government can change law

Supreme Court says gay sex is illegal, only government can change law

The Supreme Court ruled the 2009 Delhi High court order decriminalising homosexuality is constitutionally unsustainable

New Delhi The  Supreme Court has ruled that gay sex is a criminal offense, a verdict that is a  major setback for human rights in the world's biggest democracy.

The top court today set aside a Delhi High Court verdict from 2009 which had decriminalized homosexuality by  overturning a colonial-era law. (Verdict on homosexuality against basic human rights? Vote here)

The Supreme Court today said  that statute - Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code - which outlaws sex "against the order of nature" is constitutionally valid. Conviction carries a fine and a maximum 10-year jail sentence.

The Delhi High Court had said  Section 377 is  a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Religious groups appealed against its decision in the Supreme Court.

The  top court's bench was headed by G.S. Singhvi ; the verdict came on the last day before his retirement.  

"It is up to parliament to legislate on this issue," Justice Singhvi said. The government was non-committal in its response. Many political parties will not support a law on gay rights.  "It is not possible to legislate anything now. It needs political consensus," said Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.

"We see this as a betrayal of the very people the court is meant to defend and protect," said Arvind Narayan, one of the lawyers representing a consortium of gay rights groups. "In our understanding, the Supreme Court has always sided with those who have no rights," he added.

The 2009 ruling  was based on a case brought by the Naz Foundation, an Indian sexual rights organization, which fought a legal battle for almost a decade. Its members said today that they will seek a review of today's decision which would be heard by a panel of five judges.

Although prosecutions under section 377 have been rare, gay activists have said that the police used the law to harass and intimidate members of their community.
Story First Published: December 11, 2013 16:31 IST

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