The Supreme Court will on Thursday pronounce the much-awaited verdict on a batch of pleas challenging the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalises consensual gay sex. The apex court will decide whether or not to strike down this section of the IPC, a colonial-era provision that punishes same-sex relations.
Section 377 is one of the few important issues that the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra is expected to deliver its judgment on before his retirement on October 2. Also Read: What is Section 377 of the IPC?
The Centre, which had initially sought adjournment for filing its response to the petitions, had later left to the wisdom of the court the issue of legality of the penal provision with regard to the aspects of criminalising consensual unnatural sex between two consenting adults.
The Centre had said that the other aspects of the penal provision dealing with minors and animals should be allowed to be remain in the statute book.
Section 377 of the IPC states: “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with 1[imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.” This archaic British law dates back to 1861 and criminalises sexual activities against the order of nature and the ambit of this law extends to any sexual union involving penile insertion. Also Read: Aadhaar, Section 377, Ayodhya: what outgoing CJI’s Bench is set to rule on over next one month
Earlier in January 2018, the Supreme Court had said a larger group of judges would re-consider the previous judgment and examine Section 377’s constitutional validity. Revisiting their 2013 verdict, the top court had added that it will decide on the petition by five persons living in fear of being prosecuted. The Supreme Court had then said: “The section of people who exercise their choice should never remain in a state of fear.”
The issue of section 377 was first raised by NGO Naaz Foundation, which had in 2001 approached the Delhi High Court which had decriminalised sex between consenting adults of the same gender by holding the penal provision as “illegal”.