New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India on Thursday, decriminalised gay and lesbian sex - consensual sex between two adults irrespective of their gender and also partially struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
A five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising Justices Fali Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, unanimously delivered the judgment after hearing a number of petitions challenging criminalisation of homosexuality.
"LGBT Community has same rights as of any ordinary citizen. Respect for each others rights, and others are supreme humanity. Criminalising gay sex is irrational and indefensible," said Chief Justice Dipak Misra during the hearing.
As per Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
This British era law dates back to 1861. The section is based on the then-existing English Buggery Act 1553 and penalises all sexual activities “against the order of nature”.
The Supreme Court's verdict came today even as all faiths and religions regard homosexuality a sin.
"Indians are God fearing people and the "homosexual acts are irreligious and unnatural. Decriminalising these would be a slap on the face of Indian society", the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had said back in 2009.
Commenting on the Delhi HC verdict in 2009, Gyani Gurbachan Singh, head priest of the Akal Takth - the highest temporal seat of the Sikh community - said, "We strongly oppose this high court decision. It is against the laws of the nature. We appeal to the Indian government to rethink the issue. We also appeal to the Sikh community to boycott this verdict as it is against the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib."
Ganesh Tripathi, a senior priest of Delhi Arya Samaj Mandir, said: "The Arya Samaj can never accept this. This cannot be applied to Hindu society or our beliefs."
"Homosexual acts go against nature. This (judgement) is wrong and just because a small section of society wanted this, the court has overlooked the majority's views," he added.
The SC verdict today however is hailed by activists and people involved in homosexuality and their parents.
“As the mother of a lesbian daughter and on behalf of all the parents of Sweekar, I am extremely happy about the Supreme Court Verdict. This verdict makes way for the disappearance of the unjust stigma and prejudice in the society against the LGBTQI persons and their families. I, along with everyone at Sweekar, hope that after this judgement, more and more parents will embrace and accept their children as we have, and enable them to live fully," Chitra Palekar, filmmaker and petitioner in the case, said.
Commenting the SC ruling, Ashok Row Kavi, LGBT rights activist and founder of Humsafar Trust said, "We have finally got justice. We are finally 'azaad in azaad Hind".
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