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Govt petitions Supreme Court to drop gay sex ban

The government today moved the SC with a review petition seeking re-examination of its verdict on Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, reviving the penal provision making gay sex a criminal offence, entailing punishment up to life term.
By HT Correspondent and agencies, New Delhi
UPDATED ON DEC 20, 2013 09:24 PM IST

The government on Friday moved the Supreme Court with a review petition seeking re-examination of its verdict on Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), reviving the penal provision making gay sex a criminal offence, entailing punishment up to life term.

"The government has filed the review petition on #377 in the Supreme Court today. Let's hope the right to personal choices is preserved," Union law minister Kapil Sibal tweeted.

The review petition contends that the December 11 judgement of the apex court setting aside Delhi high court verdict's decriminalising sexual intercourse between same sex of consenting adults is "unsustainable".

The Centre's petition settled by attorney general GE Vahanvati sought that oral arguments be heard in an open court before disposing of its review petition.

The review petitions are generally decided in chamber hearing.

In the petition filed through advocate Devdutt Kamath, the Centre has taken 76 grounds to contend that the judgement passed by justice GS Singhvi (since retired) and justice SJ Mukhopadhaya "suffers from errors apparent on the face of the record, and is contrary to well-established principles of law laid down by this court enunciating the width and ambit of Fundamental Rights under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution."

The two-judge bench had delivered the verdict on December 11 on a bunch of petitions of anti-gay right activists, social and religious organisations against the HC's 2009 verdict decriminalising gay sex.

The high court had on July 2, 2009 ruled that sex between two consenting adults in private would not be an offence.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, finance minister P Chidambaram and Sibal had come out against the SC order.

"I am disappointed that the Supreme Court reversed the previous Delhi high court ruling on the issue of gay rights," Gandhi had said in a statement.

"We are proud that our culture has always been an inclusive and tolerant one," she said.

She also said that Delhi high court had wisely removed an archaic, repressive and unjust law that infringed on basic human rights.

"This Constitution has given us a great legacy, a legacy of liberalism and openness, that enjoin us to combat prejudice and discrimination of any kind," the Congress president had said.

READ: Why SC order criminalising gay sex is being trashed

Chidambaram had said gay rights legislation could be drawn up following Wednesday's verdict but warned that such a move would be time-consuming.

"What we have done is go back in time to 1860 and I'm terribly disappointed," Chidambaram told the NDTV network.

"We must explore ways and means in which this judgement can be reversed very quickly. Legislation is one way to reverse it but that may take time.

"(While) not giving up that option of legislation, we must explore other ways and I am willing to sit with my colleagues to find out if there are other ways in which this judgement might be reversed."

(With PTI inputs)

READ: Farhan Akhtar on article 377: why are we peeping inside bedrooms?

HT Column: You can't govern India with 19th century laws

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