Anti-gay law in the country is an offshoot of British colonialism and the Indian society earlier was more tolerant towards homosexuality, the Centre on Thursday submitted before the Supreme Court while pleading for decriminalisation of gay sex.
"It would appear that the introduction of Section 377 (making gay sex offence) in India was not a reflection of existing Indian values and traditions. Rather, it was imposed upon Indian society due to the moral views of the colonizers," Attorney General G E Vahanwati submitted.
Appearing before a bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya, the AG submitted that government does not find any legal error in the judgment of the Delhi high court decriminalising gay sex and accepts the correctness of the same.
"The Indian society prevalent before the enactment of the IPC had a much greater tolerance for homosexuality than its British counterpart, which at that time was under the influence of Victorian morality and values in regard to family and the procreative nature of sex," he said while referring to various literature of colonial and pre-colonial times.
"It is submitted that the Government of India does not find any legal error in the judgment of the high court and accepts the correctness of the same. This is also clear from the fact that it has not filed any appeal against the judgment of the high court," he said.
The apex court was hearing petitions by anti-gay rights activists and also by political, social and religious organisations, opposing the high court verdict.
The Delhi high court had in 2009 decriminalised gay sex as provided in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code and had ruled that sex between two consenting adults in private would not be an offence.
Section 377 (unnatural offences) of the IPC makes gay sex a criminal offence entailing punishment up to life term.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader B P Singhal has challenged the high court verdict in the Supreme Court, saying such acts are illegal, immoral and against the ethos of Indian culture. Religious organisations like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Utkal Christian Council and Apostolic Churches Alliance too have challenged the judgement.
The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Right, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munn Kazhgam, astrologer Suresh Kumar Kaushal and yoga guru Ramdev have also opposed the verdict.
The Centre had earlier informed the apex court that there were an estimated 25 lakh gay population and about seven percent (1.75 lakh) of them were HIV-infected.
In its affidavit, filed by the Union health ministry, it had said that it is planning to bring 4 lakh high-risk 'men who have sex with men' under its AIDS control programme and that it had already covered around 2 lakh of them.