LGBT rights

Supreme Court issues notice to Centre on plea filed by IIT alumni, students to decriminalise gay sex

The petitioners said the top court should settle the matter as the government and Parliament had been reluctant to intervene.

The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Centre seeking its reply on a petition filed by a group of 20 students and alumni of the Indian Institutes of Technology, challenging the criminalisation of gay sex under the Indian Penal Code.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud ordered that the petition be tagged with other similar petitions that the court had referred to a five-judge Constitution bench in January.

The petitioners are members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, and represent Pravriti – an informal network of more than 350 LGBT alumni, students and faculty from across 12 IITs. They say that criminalisation of sexual orientation has resulted in a “sense of shame, loss of self-esteem and stigma”, reported PTI.

“The stigma, silence and violence that Section 377 brings in its wake, deeply hurts the petitioners’ professional promise and personal fulfilment,” the petition said, alleging that several petitioners had to deal with depression, self-harm and other mental health issues. It urged the court to settle the matter as government and Parliament had been reluctant to examine it.

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 prescribes a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. In 2009, the Delhi High Court read down Section 377 to decriminalise sexual activity between members of the same sex. However, in 2013 the Supreme Court set aside the order.

In January, the top court said it would revisit the constitutional validity of the section and referred it to a Constitution bench.

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