Govt`s U-turn on gay sex draws SC`s ire
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Last Updated: Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 23:38
  
New Delhi: Contradicting its earlier stand, Government on Tuesday came out in support of decriminalisation of gay sex, drawing the ire of the Supreme Court which asked it not to make a "mockery" of the system.

As the proceedings began in the controversial case, Additional Solicitor General Mohan Jain told the bench that there is "no legal error" in the Delhi High Court verdict which had decriminalised gay sex in 2009.

The stand taken by Jain, appearing for the Union Health Ministry was contrary to the argument by Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra, who had appeared for the Home Ministry and opposed decriminalisation of gay sex.

The Home Ministry had, however, quickly distanced itself from Malhotra's submission.

Taking a strong exception to the change in government's stand, the bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya pulled up the Centre and asked it to file affidavit within three days explaining the decision taken by the Cabinet on the issue.

"Don't make (a) mockery of the system. ASG Malhotra has already argued the case for more than three hours. Don't waste the court's time," the bench said.

"You do not have to argue fresh. You are appearing for Health Ministry. Tomorrow someone may say that Jain was not authorised to argue the case. We do not want to embarrass you," the bench said.

The bench, however, allowed Jain to put forward his views on behalf of Health Ministry in support of decriminalisation of gay sex.

"We noted down the arguments on behalf of Home Ministry so you say what the stand of the Health Ministry is. Can you change your stand from court to court?" the bench observed.

The court noted that there were four government authorities who were made parties in the case and wanted to know which of them would talk on Section 377 on behalf of Centre.

"You file affidavit. It has to be filed by the highest officer of the government," the bench said while refusing to take a document on record placed by Jain on Cabinet decision taken on homosexuality.

The Government during previous hearing of the case on February 23, had tied itself in knots by first disapproving decriminalisation of gay sex, terming it as "highly immoral", but later taking a different line, evoking sharp criticism from the bench.

Appearing for the Home Ministry, Malhotra had argued that gay sex is against social order and the Indian society cannot imitate the practices prevailing abroad.

The High Court had in 2009 decriminalised gay sex as provided in Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and hadruled that the sex between two consenting adults of same sex in private would not be an offence.

Section 377 (unnatural offences) of the IPC makes gay sex a criminal offence entailing a maximum punishable of life imprisonment.

The apex court is hearing petitions filed by anti-gay rights activists and also by political, social and religious organisations who have opposed the high court verdict.

Senior BJP leader B P Singhal, who had opposed in the high court legalisation of gay sex, has challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court, saying such acts are illegal, immoral and against ethos of Indian culture.

Religious organisations like All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Utkal Christian Council and Apostolic Churches Alliance have also challenged the high court's order.

Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Right, Tamil Nadu Muslim Munn Kazhgam, astrologer Suresh Kumar Kaushal and yoga guru Ramdev have also opposed the verdict in the apex court.

PTI


First Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 21:34


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