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'Home stand final, health has no say’

The Union Home Ministry’s stand against legalising homosexuality in the country would prevail as the collective decision of the Cabinet, Law Minister HR Bhardwaj has said. Nagendar Sharma & Harish Nair report.

india Updated: Oct 18, 2008 00:02 IST

The Union Home Ministry’s stand against legalising homosexuality in the country would prevail as the collective decision of the Cabinet, and statements given by any other Cabinet colleague on the issue would be ignored, Law Minister HR Bhardwaj has said.

Seeking to put an end to the running feud between the Home and Health ministries in the Delhi High Court on the issue, Bhardwaj told Hindustan Times that the government was not in favour of tampering with the Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which prescribes punishment indulgence in for unnatural sex.

Law Minister’s comments come as an oblique criticism of his colleague and Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who has advocated the scrapping of this section.

The government was caught napping when the two ministries took opposite positions in the court, which is hearing a petition filed by an NGO, demanding decriminalisation of homosexuality.

After being pulled up by the court to take a collective stand on the issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Thursday directed the two ministries "to sit together and sort out differences".

Seeking to set the record straight, the Law Minister said that the Health Ministry should not have interfered in the matter which was outside its domain. "The Home Ministry is the nodal agency for all matters related to the IPC. Making laws and amending them is the work of Parliament, nobody else can tamper with it,” Bhardwaj said.

He said the government counsel has informed the court that no other ministry or court “could alter rules laid down in statute books established by Parliament".

Bhardwaj said the Health Ministry was welcome to take all the steps for ensuring better health of the people, but steps such as legalising homosexuality "could not be allowed, as it interfered with well-laid down legal procedure without a firm reasoning”.

The Home Ministry affidavit in the High Court said the purpose of section 377 was to “provide a healthy environment in the society by criminalising unnatural sexual activities which are against the order of nature”.

In its argument against scrapping Section 377, the Law Ministry says it is not merely confined to gay sex “but also acts as a strong deterrent against pedophilia".