section 377

Six new petitions in Supreme Court seek quashing of law that criminalises homosexuality

The new pleas are likely to be tagged along with a batch of petitions that are now before a Constitution bench.

Six new petitions seeking the quashing of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code were filed in the Supreme Court on Friday. Section 377, which dates back to the British colonial period, 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.

The petitions asked if the section, which criminalises “voluntary carnal intercourse against the order of nature”, does not violate a person’s rights to privacy, dignity, equality and autonomy under the Indian Constitution, LiveLaw reported. The petitions also said the section, “which neither defines nor explains what constitutes ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’” is arbitrary.

A non-governmental organisation from Mumbai, Humsafar, and five individuals filed the petitions. A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra will hear them on May 1. The new pleas are likely to be tagged along with a batch of petitions that are now before a Constitution bench.

In 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalised Section 377. However, in 2013 the Supreme Court set aside the order. In January, the Supreme Court said it would revisit the constitutional validity of the section and referred it to the Constitution bench.

These petitions came barely a week after the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre on a petition filed by hotelier Keshav Suri challenging the criminalisation of intercourse between consenting adults of the same gender. Suri said that members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community were ridiculed and denied equal work opportunities and pay, and asked that the court declare the right to choice of sexual orientation a fundamental right.

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