Centre weighs options over fiat on gay sex

Centre weighs options over fiat on gay sex

The government said on Thursday that it was exploring options to overturn the Supreme Court order that declared homosexuality illegal.

Law Minister Kapil Sibal said options before the government were bringing the matter before Parliament at the earliest or approach the Supreme Court with a plea to review the judgment, which has sent shock waves among the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) community across the country.

Congress leaders saw an opportunity to identify with the popular opinion and party president Sonia Gandhi issued a statement expressing her disappointment over the Supreme Court’s reversal of a Delhi High Court order decriminalising gay sex.

By evening, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also spoke in favour of gay rights saying he believed that “these are matters of personal freedom” and should be left to individuals.

“I personally believe that these are matters of personal freedom. I think, I would agree more with the High Court verdict,” Rahul said in brief remarks to media without taking any questions.
Naz Foundation, an NGO working for gay rights, said it would file a review petition against the Supreme Court order.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court overturned an archaic colonial law (Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code) that made gay sex an offence punishable by up to life imprisonment.

The Congress president hoped that Parliament would address this issue and uphold the Constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India. The Congress response in identifying with a cause which had struck a chord among millions, including those directly affected by the judgment, comes in the wake of reports that the LGBT community was 100-million strong.

The Congress had alienated itself from the urban middle class over its handling of social issues such as the Delhi gang-rape. And statements by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul are seen as an attempt to correct the past wrongs. The Supreme Court order had sent shock waves among the LGBT community as not many expected a reversal of a “forward looking lower court order.”

“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,” Sibal told reporters here.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the Supreme Court ruling was “wrong” and all options would be looked at to set right the apex court order.

He said the government should file a review or curative petition and that the matter should be heard by a five-bench judge.

Well-researched verdict

Chidambaram, a former home minister, said the Delhi High Court judgment was a “well-researched one” which the Union government accepted and did not challenge in the Supreme Court.

The Bharatiya Janata Party was cautious in reacting to the apex court judgment fearing that an outright support would antagonise its predominantly conservative voters.

The Aam Aadmi Party said the Supreme Court order went against the liberal values of the Constitution.

Leading Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband welcomed the Supreme Court verdict and asked the Centre not to repeal Section 377 that makes homosexuality a crime.

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