New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday referred a fresh petition filed by a group of LGBT celebrities challenging Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial era law that criminalises homosexuality, to the Chief Justice for India for appropriate orders.
Referring the matter to the CJI, the apex court bench said, ''A decision on similar petitions is already pending in the apex court. A five-judge constitution bench is looking into all the curative petitions in this regard.''
''The CJI will now decide if petition is to be heard along with curative petition already pending in SC,'' the apex court bench said.
Referring to the matter earlier, Union Law and Justice Minister DV Sadananda Gowda had said that the Centre had discussed the provision with its top legal officer and would decide on the line it would take in the court as the matter comes up for hearing in the SC.
Section 377 violated their rights to sexuality, sexual autonomy, choice of sexual partner as guaranteed by the Constitution, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath, dancer NS Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra and business executive Ayesha Kapur have contended in their joint petition.
The Supreme Court, which reopened today after a summer break, had in February agreed to re-examine its December 2013 verdict that re-criminalised gay sex.
It also sent to a larger five-judge constitution bench all the curative petitions seeking a review of the verdict described by activists as regressive, leaving gays vulnerable to violence and police action.
A curative petition is the last legal recourse available after a litigant exhausts all remedies such as appeals and review petition.
Eight such petitions are pending with the bench seeking review of the judgment that upheld the constitutional validity of Section 377, which prescribes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment for “unnatural sex”.
The Supreme Court had in December 2013 reversed a Delhi high court verdict that de-criminalised consensual homosexual acts. The high court in July 2013 declared unconstitutional a part of Section 377 that criminalises unnatural sex, saying “the section denies a gay person a right to full personhood…”
Though it overturned the high court order, the Supreme Court left it to Parliament to take the final call on the controversial law. The majority view in the political class is against relaxing Section 377. Several religious groups, too, are of the same opinion.
The All India Muslim personal law board and a Christian group are opposing changes in Section 377, saying they had “cogent” arguments against de-criminalising homosexuality. They were among the petitioners who successfully opposed the high court verdict in the Supreme Court.
With PTI inputs