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SC refers Article 377 to larger bench: A timeline of legality of homosexuality in India

A timeline of important events relating to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in important jurisdictions in India.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2018 14:01 IST
homosexuality,homosexuality in India,gay sex
The Supreme Court on Monday referred Section 377 of Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality to a larger bench of the court for reconsideration. (Samir Jana/HT Photo)

In a glimmer of hope for the country’s LGBT community, the Supreme Court on Monday referred Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) which criminalises homosexuality to a larger bench of the court after upholding the law in 2013.

“Petitioners have raised larger issues, saying the section [377] violated privacy, equality, dignity and expression,” said the court. “Taking all aspects in cumulative manner, we are of the view that earlier decision in the S K Koushal case requires reconsideration.”

Here is a timeline of important events relating to the legality of homosexuality in India:

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

September 2, 2004: High Court dismisses the PIL seeking decriminalisation of gay sex.

September: Gay right activists file review petition.

November 3: High Court dismisses the review plea.

December: Gay rights activists approach the apex court against the order of the High Court.

April 3, 2006: Apex court directs the High Court to reconsider the matter on merit and remands the case back to High Court.

October 4: High Court allows senior BJP leader BP 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 the contradictory stand between the Home and Health ministries over decriminalisation of homosexuality.

High Court refuses the plea and final argument in the case begins.

September 25: 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: High Court pulls up the Centre for speaking in two voices on the homosexuality law in view of contradictory affidavits filed by Health and Home ministries.

September 26: 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: High Court pulls up the 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: Government in its written submission before the High Court says judiciary should refrain from interfering in the issue as it is basically for Parliament to decide.

November 7: High Court reserves its verdict on petitions filed by gay rights activists seeking decriminalisation of homosexual acts.

July 2, 2009: High Court allows plea of gay rights activists and legalises gay sex among consenting adults.

July 9: Delhi astrologer challenges High Court verdict in Supreme Court.

Later on, several others including BJP leader Singhal (since dead), religious organisations, rights activists and yoga guru Ramdev's disciples have also opposed the judgement.

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

March 27, 2012: Supreme Court reserves verdict.

December 11, 2013: Supreme Court sets aside the 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised gay sex.

December 20, 2013: Government petitions Supreme Court to drop gay sex ban.

January 28, 2014: Supreme Court dismisses a Central government petition seeking a review of its verdict that had declared gay sex an offence.

June 30, 2016: A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court refers a petition filed by five well-known members of the LGBT community seeking to legalise gay sex to the Chief Justice of India for “appropriate orders”, saying a similar matter was already pending before a constitution bench.

August 24, 2017: Supreme Court passes landmark ruling declaring individual privacy a guaranteed fundamental right. “Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy,” the court said, virtually reopening the 2013 judgment on gay rights.

January 8, 2018: Supreme Court refers Section 377 to a larger bench of the court, saying its 2013 requires reconsideration.

First Published: Dec 11, 2013 10:35 IST