Section 377: Supreme Court starts marathon hearing on legalising homosexuality

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Section 377: Supreme Court starts marathon hearing on legalising homosexuality

New Delhi: Reviving a new ray of hope for the homosexuals in the country, the Supreme Court on Tuesday began the crucial marathon hearing on a series of pleas challenging the Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises consensual gay sex between two adults.

The apex court on Monday had rejected the Centre’s plea seeking postponement of the proceedings.

A five-judge Constitution bench is hearing the petitions challenging criminalisation of homosexual sex between two consenting adults.

The bench will be headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprise Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

What is Section 377?

Section 377 refers to ‘unnatural offences’ and states that 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.

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Timeline

On July 2, 2009, the Delhi High Court had legalised homosexual acts among consenting adults, scraping the 149-year-old law making it a criminal offence was violative of the fundamental rights.

In 2013 the apex court restored the criminality of the sexual relationship between persons of the same sex after the Delhi High Court’ had decriminalised it in 2009.

2001: Naz Foundation, an NGO fighting for gay rights, files PIL in Delhi High Court seeking legalisation of gay sex among consenting adults.

September 2004: The HC dismissed the PIL seeking decriminalisation of gay sex; Gay rights activists filed a review petition.

November 3, 2004: HC dismissed the review plea filed by Gay rights activists.

December 2004: Gay rights activists approached SC against HC order.

April 3, 2006: SC remands the case back to HC, directs it to reconsider the matter on merit.

October 4: HC allows senior BJP leader B P Singhal’s plea, opposing decriminalising gay sex, to be impleaded in the case.

September 18, 2008: Centre seeks more time to take stand on the issue after contradictory stand between Home and Health Ministries over the decriminalisation of homosexuality. HC refuses the plea and final argument in the case begins.

September 25, 2008: Gay rights activists contend that the government cannot infringe upon their fundamental right to equality by decriminalising homosexual acts on the ground of morality.

September 26, 2008: HC pulls up Centre for speaking in two voices on homosexuality law in view of contradictory affidavits filed by Health and Home Ministries.

Centre says gay sex is immoral and a reflection of a perverse mind and its decriminalisation would lead to moral degradation of society.

October 15, 2008: HC pulls up Centre for relying on religious texts to justify ban on gay sex and asks it to come up with scientific reports to justify it.

November 2008: Govt in its written submission before HC says judiciary should refrain from interfering in the issue as it is basically for Parliament to decide.

November 7, 2008: HC reserves verdict on pleas filed by gay rights activists seeking decriminalisation of homosexual acts.

July 2, 2009: HC allows plea of gay rights activists and legalises sexual activity among consenting adults of same sex.

July 9, 2009: Delhi astrologer challenges HC verdict in SC. Later, several others including BJP leader Singhal (since dead), religious organisations, rights activists and yoga guru Ramdev’s disciple also oppose the judgement.

February 15, 2012: SC begins final day-to-day hearing in the case.

March 27, 2012: SC reserves verdict.

December 11, 2013: SC sets aside the 2009 Delhi HC order which had decriminalised gay sex.

December 20, 2013: Centre files review petition in SC seeking a re-examination of its verdict.

December 24, 2013: Gay rights activists file the review petition in SC seeking a re-examination of its verdict.

January 28, 2014: SC refuses to review its verdict on criminalising gay sex, dismisses pleas of Centre, activists.

April 3, 2014: SC agrees to consider for an open court hearing on curative petitions filed by gay rights activists against its verdict criminalising homosexuality.

February 2, 2016: SC refers curative pleas on homosexuality to the five-judge bench.

June 29, 2016: SC refers the plea of celebrities like dancer N S Johar, chef Ritu Dalmia and hotelier Aman Nath, for quashing of section 377 of the IPC, to a bench already seized of the matter.

August 24, 2017: SC declares right to privacy a fundamental right under the Constitution, also observes that “sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy”.

January 8, 2018: SC agrees to reconsider its 2013 decision and refers to a larger bench the plea challenging 377 of the IPC, saying that the societal morality “changes from age to age”.

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