Supreme Court to resume hearings on Section 377 today

A five-member Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will on Tuesday resume its hearings on petitions filed to strike down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes gay sex a criminal offence.

The bench—led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and comprising Justices R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra—had began its hearings on petitions against Section 377 a week ago.

Gay rights activists have been hopeful of a “favourable” verdict on Section 377 as judges on the bench have been conciliatory in their observations. For instance, Chief Justice of India Misra noted on July 12 that the Supreme Court can't go by “ majoritarian morality”, while Justice Malhotra observed homosexuality was “not an aberration, but a variation”.

Importantly, the Supreme Court declared that it would confine itself to the “constitutional validity” of Section 377 and would not go into the realms of wider human rights such as marriage rights. In its response to the hearings, the Centre had on July 11 said it would not take a “stand” on the issue of Section 377 and left it to the wisdom of the Supreme Court. However, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta cautioned against going beyond the issue of criminalisation of gay sex.
Before the current round of hearings got under way, the Supreme Court had rejected a submission from the Centre that sought postponement of the hearings on Section 377 on the grounds that it needed four weeks' time to respond to the petitions.

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 that may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine.

The Supreme Court had in 2013 restored the criminality of the sexual relationships between persons of the same sex, after the Delhi High Court had decriminalised it in 2009.

When the Supreme Court had set aside the Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising sex between consenting adults of same sex by holding Section 377 of IPC as "illegal", review petitions were filed. On their dismissal, curative petitions were filed by the affected parties for re-examination of the original verdict.

Source - TW 

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