The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear curative petitions seeking the re-examination of its verdict criminalising sexual intercourse between consenting adults belonging to the same sex, under section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. A curative petition is the last resort for redressal of grievances against a verdict. They are normally heard in the judge’s chambers, but on rare occasions are heard in an open court.
The decision of the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur came after it was told that there were eight curative petitions seeking a re-examination of its December 2013 verdict upholding the validity of Section 377. Anjali Gopalan, member of the Naz Foundation, which filed the petition that the court heard on Tuesday, told CNN-IBN that the decision comes as a relief and "let's hope this is the final leg". Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu said it was a "humane issue" and the government had not formulated any view on the matter, reported PTI.
In December 2013, the apex court reversed a 2009 High Court ruling that decriminalised consensual homosexual acts. In January 2014, the Supreme Court then dismissed a series of review petitions on Section 377. The Centre had also filed a review petition, to “avoid grave miscarriage of justice to thousands” and said the judgment “suffers from errors”, PTI reported. LGBT activists said thousands of people from their community had gone public about their sexual identity after the Delhi High Court ruling. The Supreme Court’s 2013 verdict left many in threat of prosecution.
India currently stands with countries including Ghana, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Qatar in criminalising homosexuality. The United States Supreme Court has held gay marriage as legal, along with many European countries – Belgium, France, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, Luxembourg, Ireland and Nepal in 2007.