The Supreme Court on Thursday is likely to pronounce its verdict on pleas challenging the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalises gay sex.
Here is what Section 377 of IPC means:
Section 377 of IPC refers to ‘unnatural offence’ and says whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment for a term which may be extended to 10 years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine.
Section 377 came into force in 1861 during the British rule of India and was modelled on the Buggery Act of 1533. It criminalised sexual activities “against the order of nature,” including homosexual activities.
The issue of Section 377 was first raised by an NGO, Naaz Foundation, and AIDS Bedhbhav Virodh Andolan in the Delhi High Court in 2001. Both the petitions were dismissed in the court.
Eight years later, in 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalised sex between consenting adults of the same gender holding the penal provision “illegal”.
However, the 2009 judgement of the Delhi High Court was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013 which had also dismissed a review plea.
In 2014, the LGBT community got hope when the Supreme Court directed the government at the Centre to declare transgender a ‘third gender’ and include them in the OBC quota.
January 2018 saw a three-member bench of the Supreme Court hearing a petition filed by five petitioners asking the apex court to revisit the Naaz Foundation judgement. The case was referred to a larger bench. Help was also sought from the Centre.
The writ petitions were opposed by Apostolic Alliance of Churches and Utkal Christian Association and some other NGOs and individuals including Suresh Kumar Kaushal.
The Supreme Court on July 2017 this year, reserved the verdict on whether to decriminsalise Section 377 or not.
Gender rights activists have argued that Section 377 violates different articles of the Constitution.