The verdict read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a 157-year-old colonial-era law that criminalised “sex against the order of nature” and made it punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
The unanimous verdict came through four separate judgements – one of them written by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar together, and the others by Justices Rohinton Nariman, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.
The bench said gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people have the right to constitutional equality in “all its manifestations”, and majoritarian views and popular morality cannot dictate constitutional rights.
The judgement came after the Supreme Court heard six petitions and interventions filed by non-governmental organisation Naz Foundation, parents of queer people and Voices Against 377, a collective of human rights groups.
The Indian Express led with “Love at first right” as its headline and a large photo of one of the petitioners, Keshav Suri, and his partner Cyril Feuillebois celebrating outside the Supreme Court.
“Same-sex relation no longer a crime – Supreme Court affirms identity, dignity, equality & privacy,” read the strap.
The paper claimed that “political parties are still reluctant to come out and applaud the Constitution Bench ruling today”.
“Independence Day-II” read the headline on the front page of The Times of India. The paper said the Supreme Court had ushered “India into the 21st century.”
“Freedom to love anyone. Freedom from fear of persecution. Freedom to just be who you are.”
The paper also carried an article by Justice AP Shah, who delivered the landmark 2009 Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising homosexuality. “Sixty-eight years after the founding fathers of the Republic of India encoded the right to freedom of life and liberty, the Supreme Court has finally upheld the right of every human being to be free, regardless of sexual orientation or identity,” Shah wrote.
The paper said that the political class “skirted any discussion on the LGBTQ minority, wary of a backlash from the social and religious taboos associated with gay relationships”. It also called for LGBT marriage and parenting rights for the community.
The headline on the front page of the Hindustan Times read “Rainbow Nation” with the first line: “It’s no longer a crime to be a homosexual in India.”
The newspaper quoted from the order of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khawilkar. “[The provision has been used as a] weapon in the hands of the majority to seclude, exploit and harass the LGBT community.”
The newspaper also said that the verdict brought relief to members of the LGBTQI community but their fight for rights to marriage, adoption and inheritance continued.
Navbharat Times headline read “377=0” in the rainbow colours of the pride movement. “Section 377 that criminalised consensual gay sex dismissed,” the paper said.
Dainik Jagran’s headline said “Same sex relationship is not a crime anymore”. The paper highlighted that the five judges made a unanimous decision on the matter.
The Hindu went with a straight headline, “SC decriminalises homosexuality”, and quoted the judges who delivered the verdict. “Homosexuality is documented in 1,500 species and is not unique to humans,” Justice DY Chandrachud had said in his judgement.
The newspaper also said that Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of cases (999) registered under Section 377 of the IPC in 2016, followed by Kerala with 207 cases registered under the category of unnatural offences.