A five-judge bench led by CJI Dipak Misra diluted Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, to exclude all kinds of adult consensual sexual behaviour. The law will still stand on the statute book to deal with unnatural sexual offences against minors and animals such as sodomy and bestiality.
Karan Johar was the first celebrity to welcome the Supremem Court’s landmark judgmment diluting the Article 377, under which homosexuality was a criminal offence, in a tweet posted minutes after the verdict was read out by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
“Historical judgement. So proud today. Decriminalising homosexuality and abolishing #Section377 is a huge thumbs up for humanity and equal rights. The country gets its oxygen back,” tweeted the 46-year-old filmmaker. His post was swiftly followed by those from Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Rajkummar Rao, Swara Bhasker, Preity Zinta, John Abraham, Farhan Akhtra, Konkona Sen Sharma, Richa Chadha, Dia Mirza, Vicky Kaushal, Ayushmann Khurrana and several other celebrities.
This morning, a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Misra reversed its own 2013 decision and delivered a spectacular win for India’s LGBT+ community. Homosexuality is no longer an offence, the Supreme Court decided, striking down a controversial ban on gay sex that dates from the British Raj. “We have to bid adieu to prejudices and to empower all citizens,” read out Chief Justice Misra from the verdict, which declared Section 377 ‘irrational and arbitrary.’ The verdict also makes it clear that homosexuality is not a mental disorder.
Section 377 carried a jail term of upto 10 years
The five petitioners were- Bharatnatyam dancer Navtej Singh Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, restaurateur Ritu Dalmia, Neemrana hotel chain co-founder Aman Nath and businesswoman Ayesha Kapur.
In 2013, the Supreme Court overturned a Delhi High Court order scrapping Section 377 on the grounds that the job was that of Parliament and not the courts. This year, the Supreme Court said it “cannot wait for a majoritarian government” to decide on enacting, amending or striking down a law if it violates fundamental rights.
The draconian Section 377 was first enforced in 1861. It is a colonial-era anti-sodomy law based on Victorian morality, thoroughly outdated, and used to terrorise, silence, invisibilise, blackmail or extort money from members of the LGBTQ community. It was in July this year that a battery of lawyers questioned its constitutional validity in the Supreme Court, questioned its place in a nation where we have a fundamental right to our life, liberty, and privacy. And as a nation that values these rights, decriminalising homosexuality was inevitable.
Delivering the Supreme Court judgement, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said it was time to “make way for the progressive realization of social and economic rights,” and to “to bid adieu to perception stereotypes”.