Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hasn’t yet commented on the demand to legalise homosexuality, but he has told his feuding cabinet colleagues, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Health Minister A. Ramadoss, to sit across the table to resolve their differences on the issue.
Patil and Law Minister HR. Bharadwaj do not want the scrapping of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality. Ramadoss wants this provision out, arguing that it drives homosexuals underground and out of reach of health workers educating people on safe sex.
“The prime minister has directed the two ministers to sit together and sort out differences,” Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said after a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
At the meeting, the prime minister did not offer any views on legalising homosexuality. The Delhi High Court is hearing a case on the subject.
Patil had decided to refer the difference of opinion to the cabinet for a final word in view of what his ministry describes as “far reaching consequences” of decriminalising homosexuality.
Other than concerns that scrapping the provision might lead to law and order issues and that the society wasn’t ready for homosexuality, a senior home ministry official said they also wanted a threadbare discussion on its implications like demands for official sanction to gay marriages and same-sex live-in relationships.
Bharadwaj raised the issue at the cabinet meeting, complaining that the health ministry had filed its affidavit in court without consulting the home and law ministries. Ramadoss wasn’t present at the meeting.
A senior minister later said it was unusual that the cabinet took up this issue in the absence of one of the ministers concerned but this exception was made in light of the urgency.