The Supreme Court’s move to order re-examination of its verdict criminalising sexual activity between same sex consenting adults under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was widely welcomed by activists today as ‘hope of upholding the democracy’ in the country.
"I am happy that the court has referred the matter to a five-judge bench. Now, the court is going to look at the constitutional arguments to decriminalise homosexuality, hopes have been raised that if the petition has been accepted that means they see some merit in it. Let’s hope this is the last leg of the fight," said LBGT activist and Naz Foundation director Anjali Gopalan.
Welcoming the order, transgender rights activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, said, “Actually the court could have struck it down and asked the government to react on it to assert that democracy prevails in the country and the right of expression, right to life and dignity is still there. But it is interesting how the matter has been referred to a five-judge bench.”
The apex court on Tuesday referred the curative plea seeking re-examination of its verdict criminalizing homosexuality under Section 377 of the IPC, to a 5-judge Constitution Bench.
The court was hearing the curative petition filed by gay rights activists and non-governmental organisation Naz Foundation against the apex court’s December 11, 2013 judgement upholding validity of Section 377 (unnatural sexual offences) of the IPC and the January 2014 order by which it had dismissed a batch of review petitions.
A curative petition is the last judicial resort available for redressal of grievances in court which is normally decided by judges in-chamber. In rare cases, such petitions are given an open court hearing.
Congress spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala also welcomed the SC decision and hoped that the court will take a note of the events across the globe including India and restore the dignity and honour of the LGBT community.
"We have always been told whom you want to love is a matter of choice and that personal choice must be respected by the society at large. Section 377, as far as the LGBT community is concerned, needs to be decriminalised. The Delhi high court judgement was a welcome step in this direction that was reversed," he said.
Noted lyricist Javed Akhtar said homosexual relationships are a reality and the society needs to accept that.
"You cannot pretend that there is no elephant in the living room. It is a reality and most of the societies in the world have accepted it and you have to accept it. You cannot pretend there is no homosexuality and why should you pretend?" he said.
Reacting to the development, Bollywood actress Nandita Das, said, “It is an archaic law which was introduced by the British government. They have removed this law from their judiciary and we are still hanging to it. I really hope that this law will go and people will be allowed to love.”
“We should be worried about people like Dabholkar, Kalburgi being killed for being rationalist instead of saying two people cannot love. So, I am definitely against 377 and I really hope that better sense will prevail,” she added.
Human rights group Amnesty International also termed the Supreme Court order as a positive development.
“The Supreme Court’s decision on Section 377 is a positive development. The apex court has another chance to correct a grave error, which continues to put the LGBT people under physical, mental and legal threat,” it said in a statement.