All eyes are on the Supreme Court today as the top court will pronounce the much-awaited verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalises homosexuality.
The five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra had reserved the verdict on 17 July on the conclusion of arguments.
The verdict assumes significance as in the earlier round of litigation in 2013 the Supreme Court had reversed the Delhi High Court ruling decriminalising homosexuality or same sex relationship,
On July 17, the apex court had concluded hearing the arguments on the contentious issue after detailed hearing, which had commenced on July 10.
The tone and tenor of the hearing of the matter on 17 July saw the court telling that it was duty bound to strike down a law that is in conflict with the fundamental rights and not to leave it to majoritarian government to address it.
“The moment we are convinced that a law is violative of the fundamental rights we will strike it down and not relegate it to legislature,” the court had said.
The hearing saw the Constitution bench disagreeing with some of the respondents telling it that decriminalizing the same sex relationship amongst the LGBT community would have a cascading effect on other statutes including the personnel laws and the spread of dreaded diseases like HIV and AIDS.
Unimpressed by the submission, Justice Nariman had said that there would be “no cascading effect” as all such references in other statutes will get deleted.
Section 377 refers to ‘unnatural offences’ and says 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 10 years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine.
The apex court heard the writ petitions filed by dancer Navtej Jauhar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hoteliers Aman Nath, Keshav Suri and business executive Ayesha Kapur and 20 former and current students of the IITs.
They have sought decriminalisation of consensual sex between two consenting adults of the same sex by declaring section 377 of IPC as illegal and unconstitutional.
The issue of section 377 was first raised by an NGO, Naaz Foundation, which had in 2001 approached the Delhi High Court which had decriminalised sex between consenting adults of the same gender by holding the penal provision as “illegal”.
This 2009 judgement of the high court was overturned in 2013 by the apex court.
(With agency inputs)