Gay sex among consenting adults is not an offence, the Supreme Court ordered on Thursday, reading down a British-era section 377 of the penal code that penalises people for their sexual orientation.

The provision treats consensual sexual acts by adults of the same sex as an offence and provides for a life sentence for those found guilty of the act. Section 377 is modelled on Britain’s Buggery Act of 1533 and had survived on the statute in India though it has been scrapped in Britain.

The high court had decriminalised consensual gay sex in 2009 but the top court had cancelled the order four years later, ruling that only parliament should be changing laws.

In 2016, the Supreme Court, however, agreed to hear a petition by five prominent members of the LGBT, or lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community Bharatnatyam dancer Navtej Johar, culture expert Aman Nath, restaurateurs Ritu Dalmia and Ayesha Kapur and mediaperson Sunil Mehra, challenging the constitutionality of section 377.

The court later set up a five-judge bench to determine if the provision violates fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution which concluded the hearing in July.

Long before the constitution bench delivered the verdict on Thursday, the five judges had dropped enough hints about what they thought of the nearly 160-year-old law.

Like when Chief Justice Misra observed that the LGBT community felt the stigma “because of the criminality attached” and homosexuals can get together once it is removed. On other occasions, the judges had made it clear that consent was going to be the key and no one could impose their sexual orientation on others.

At other times, the judges observed that the law could not deny the LGBT community their right to privacy even they make only make up for a “minuscule fraction” of the country’s population.

It had also underlined that the top court wasn’t going to wait for a “majoritarian government to enact, amend or not to enact any law to deal with violations of fundamental rights”.

During the court hearings, the NDA government had chosen not to take a stand in the matter, leaving it to the court’s wisdom but asked the court to clarify that the right to choose a partner should not extend to “perversions like incest.”

~HindustanTimes

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[…] in Mizoram have “rejected” the SC’s ruling on Article 377 and said homosexuality and lesbianism should continue to be criminalised as it was before […]