To undo SC verdict,govt says it will change law,file review plea

P Chidambaram said all options would be explored to negate the impact of the Supreme Court ruling.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi | Updated: January 10, 2014 1:13:37 pm

A day after the Supreme Court ruled that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code would continue to make same-gender sex an offence punishable with a sentence up to life term,the government said Thursday that “urgent steps” would be taken to overturn the SC judgment.

Sources said the government is awaiting Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati’s return to New Delhi later this week and,after he gives his opinion,a review or curative petition is likely to be filed in the Supreme Court.

“We will have to change the law. If the Supreme Court has upheld that law,then we will certainly have to take firm steps. Change has to be made fast and any delay cannot take place. We will use all means available to make changes at the earliest,” said Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal.

Asked to spell out the options available with the government,Sibal said,“One opinion could be to bring it to parliament at the earliest. The other opinion could be to approach the Supreme Court or take any other route. We will adopt the approach which will give us quick results.”

During his arguments before the Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi,Vahanvati had held that “the Government of India does not find any legal error in the judgment of the High Court and accepts the correctness of the same. This is also clear from the fact that it has not filed any appeal against the judgment of the High Court.”

Stating that the HC had “read down” Section 377,Vahanvati had told the court that while Section 377 as such would remain,a proviso would have to be added to it to ensure that the same wouldn’t apply to “any sexual activity between two consenting adults in private”.

He had also pointed out that there were many aspects of modern day life which “by reason of technological,scientific and medical advances have already drastically altered the view as to what constitutes the order of nature… for instance,surrogacy,IVF,cloning,genetic modification of seeds,stem cell research,different methods of contraception,etc.”

Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram,while describing the Supreme Court ruling as “wrong”,said all options would be explored to negate the impact of the ruling. Terming the judgment as “disappointing”,he said the Supreme Court should have applied “current social and moral values” in the case.

Observing that the Delhi High Court judgment was a “well-researched one” which the Union government had accepted and did not challenge in the Supreme Court,Chidambaram said the Bench that gave the order should have referred the matter to a five-judge bench.

Meanwhile,Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi expressed disappointment with the Supreme Court verdict. Sonia hoped the parliament would “address the issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India,including those directly affected by this judgment”.

“The High Court had wisely removed an archaic,repressive and unjust law that infringed on the basic human rights enshrined in our Constitutions. 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. We are proud that our culture has always been an inclusive and tolerant one,” she said.

Rahul,while saying that he agreed with the Delhi High Court judgment which had decriminalised gay sex,said,“I personally believe that these are matters of personal freedom… I think these matters should be left to the individuals. These are personal choices. This country is known for its freedom,freedom of expression. So let that be.”

However,the opposition BJP remained noncommittal on the issue,refusing to indicate its stand. Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told mediapersons here that her party would make its stand public only after an all-party meeting. “Call an all-party meeting on Section 377 and we’ll discuss this issue after that,” she said.

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