Section 377: Modi Govt has to spell out stand as SC refuses adjournment

The Modi government will finally have to spell out its stand on Section 377 as the Supreme Court has refused its request to adjourn hearing on the archaic law scheduled for July 10

Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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NH National Bureau

The Supreme Court on Monday, July 9 refused to adjourn tomorrow's hearing by a five-judge Constitution bench on a batch of writ petitions challenging its December 11, 2013 verdict that had re-criminalised consensual sex ‘against the order of nature’ between adults. The law effectively criminalises same sex relations, regardless of consent.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra refused to defer the hearing after the Centre sought more time to file its response on the PILs filed by several LGBT persons. “It will not be adjourned,” the bench, also comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud, said.

The Modi Government will now have to make its stand on decriminalisation of same-sex relations clear. The government has neatly managed to avoid coming out with its position on the issue so far, after BJP MPs twice prevented even a discussion on
a private member's bill moved by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in the Lok Sabha,  which sought to strike down Section 377.

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

A five-judge constitution bench, newly re-constituted by the CJI, is scheduled to commence hearing of four crucial matters, including the issue of Section 377, from tomorrow. The bench will be headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprises justices Khanwilkar and Chandrachud, Rohinton F Nariman and Indu Malhotra.

The Delhi High Court had on July 2, 2009, held that Section 377 was unconstitutional in that it abrogated fundamental rights including right to life, liberty, dignity and equality of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) persons. The Supreme Court had in December 2013 set aside the Delhi High Court judgment and recriminalised same sex relations.

Affected parties including the original petitional Naz Foundation (India) Trust, Voices Against 377 and parents of LGBT persons, among others had then filed review petitions against the Supreme Court judgment which were dismissed by the apex court. Curative petitions filed by the affected parties for re-examination of the original verdict remain pending before the Supreme Court.

During the pendency of the curative petitions, the plea was made that an open court hearing should be granted and after the apex court agreed to it, several fresh writ petitions were filed seeking decriminalisation of same sex relations under Section 377.

With PTI inputs

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