Indian Supreme Court decriminalises homosexuality in landmark verdict

A supporter of the LGBT community takes part in a gay pride parade in the Indian city of Chennai

A supporter of the LGBT community takes part in a gay pride parade in the Indian city of Chennai

Section 377 was a 157-year-old British-era colonial law that criminalized sex between homosexuals.

"Justice Chandrachud also said that due to Section 377, the LGBTQ members were forced to live in hiding and as second class citizens, while the others used to enjoy the right of sexual orientation".

"India was the most populous country in the world that still had a law on the books criminalizing gay sex".

Members of the LGBT community hugged each other and cried as news of the verdict spread.

In 2013, the Supreme Court had set aside a verdict passed by Delhi High Court in 2009 which decriminalised consensual sex between two adults of the same sex, and reinstated Section 377. Social morality can not be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual.

The verdict was met with scenes of joy across the country: The BBC said "Campaigners outside the court cheered and some broke down in tears as the ruling was handed down".

"History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights, for denying them their rights and compelling them to live a life of fear", said Justice Indu Malhotra, who was part of the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that delivered the judgment, capping a 17-year legal struggle.

Also read: Section 377 verdict: Can we start calling the CJI the CEO of India?

Justice Chandrachud was speaking on the topic, "Rule of Law in Constitutional Democracy", at the 19th Annual Bodh Raj Sawhny Memorial Oration 2018, organised by National Law University, Delhi.

After the 2013 verdict, five high-profile petitioners - Bharatnatyam dancer Navtej Johar, documentary filmmaker Sunil Mehra, restaurateur Ritu Dalmia, hotelier and historian Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur - challenged it and became the human faces of this battle. It says that the rights which are granted by the Constitution of India are enjoyed by LGBT community as well.

"It was a law that propagated homophobia", said Keshav Suri, one of the petitioners against Section 377, who organised a Bollywood-style dance show and champagne party at his family's luxury Delhi hotel to celebrate the court victory.

"Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults - homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians - can not be said to be unconstitutional", said Misra, as he read out the judgement.

Singh has appealed the Parliament of India to consider its role in respect of today's Supreme Court judgment to find out whether the Supreme Court has acted beyond the limit and scope of its constitutional authority it has been provided by the Indian Constitution.

"The court must try to protect the dignity of every individual of the society including people from LGBT", the ruling said.

Initially, the bench debated whether it should look at larger questions beyond sexual orientation but CJI Misra finally observed that the issue of the section's constitutionality should be settled first.

Clauses which deal with unnatural sex with animals and children still remain in force.

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