Most political parties welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to review the constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality. Dating back to the 1800s, Section 377 criminalises anal and oral sex, referring to it as “unnatural sex”, and states that it is “against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal”. It also includes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
In 2013, a two-judge bench had set aside the Delhi High Court’s 2009 judgment to decriminalise homosexuality.
The Congress praised the apex court’s decision. “Everybody has an equal right to live life the way they want,” The Hindu quoted the All India Mahila Congress President Sushmita Dev as saying.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) too welcomed the development. “We hope that the Supreme Court will reverse its own unfortunate judgment earlier,” Brinda Karat told the English daily. “In a democracy, [the] police and the state have no business interfering in [the] personal choice of individuals.”
The BJP also said it welcomes the decision. “Any decision that the Supreme Court takes in sync with the jurisprudential developments on gay rights the world over would be welcome,” BJP spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao said. The saffron party’s ally, Shiv Sena, maintained a neutral stance. “They have the right to live the way they want. What can we say on it,” the daily quoted Shiv Sena MP Arvind Ganpat as saying.
The Nationalist Congress Party, however, urged the court to consider the “sentimental and religious” impact of any landmark decision. “The court has to examine [the] constitutional validity in considering whether the prohibition imposed on two adults accounts for violation of their freedom at the same time legitimising may amount to encouraging immorality,” party MP Majeed Memon said.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy stirs controversy with comments
Rajya Sabha MP and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy, however, stirred a controversy with his comments on the matter. “As long as they do not celebrate it, do not flaunt it, do not create gay bars to select partners it is not a problem,” ANI quoted Swamy as saying. “In their privacy what they do, nobody can invade but if you flaunt it, it has to be punished and therefore there has to be Section 377.”
Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha demanded a clarification from the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi about their stand on Swamy’s comments.