Friday, April 4, 2014

Supreme Court to hear Curative Petition on Decriminalisation of Homosexuality

Dear Colleagues,

Chapter XVI, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code dating back to 1861, introduced during the British rule of India, criminalises sexual activities "against the order of nature", arguably including homosexual acts.

The section was declared unconstitutional with respect to sex between consenting adults by the High Court of Delhi on 2 July 2009. That judgement was overturned by the Supreme Court of India on 11 December 2013, with the Court holding that amending or repealing Section 377 should be a matter left to Parliament, not the judiciary.

The Supreme Court on 03rd April 14,  agreed to consider the plea for an open court hearing on curative petitions filed by gay rights activists against its verdict criminalizing homosexuality. 

A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam, before whom the matter was mentioned by senior lawyers appearing for different parties, said that it will go through the documents and consider their plea. 

Curative petition is the last judicial resort available for redressal of grievances in court and it is normally considered by judges in-chamber without granting opportunity to parties to argue the case. 

The petitioners, including NGO Naz Foundation which has been spearheading the legal battle on behalf of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community, contended that there was an error in the judgment delivered on December 11 last year as it was based on old law. 

Senior Advocate Ashok Desai said that the judgment in the instant case was reserved on March 27, 2012 but the verdict was delivered after around 21 months by the SC and during this period lots of changes took place including amendment in laws which were not considered by the bench which delivered the judgment.  Senior advocates like Harish Salve, Mukul Rohatgi, Anand Grover and other lawyers supported Ashok Desai and pleaded for an open court hearing.   They submitted that the case should have been heard by the Constitution bench instead of two-judge bench which heard and delivered the verdict on the controversial issue. 

The apex court had earlier dismissed a batch of review petitions filed by the Centre and gay rights activists including noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal against its December 2013 verdict declaring gay sex an offence punishable upto life imprisonment. 

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