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SC to take up gay activist’s plea on Section 377 tomorrow

  • The LGBT community is quite an unfortunate lot. The tide has swung continuously to and fro from the hands of the community and the social acceptance that they have been fighting for has eluded them ever since. But it looks like all of that is bound to change.

    Many famous gay activists like Ritu Dalmia and Aman Nath have moved the Supreme Court to seek quashing of Section 377 of the IPC to protect their sexual preferences, saying these are part and parcel of the right to life.

    The petition's first paragraph boldly declares: “The petitioners are lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens whose rights to sexuality , sexual autonomy , choice of sexual partner, life, privacy , dignity and equality , along with other fundamental rights guaranteed under Part-III of Constitution, are violated by Section 377.“ A petition by renowned LGBT activists in the Supreme Court against the constitutional validity of Section 377 has changed the contours of a decade-and-half-old legal fight on two counts. One, the LGBT personalities have overcome the fear of public exposure their move could result in to assert their sexual preference. Second, this is the first time people who are directly aggrieved by Section 377 have challenged its constitutional validity.

    The petition by dancer N S Johar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive Ayesha Kapur is coming up for hearing before a bench of Justices S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan on June 29. Lawyers Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar have consented to argue for the petitioners.

    Filing of a writ petition by renowned LGBT members would add fresh impetus to pending petitions -one by Naz Foundation and others by gay rights sympathizers like film-maker Shyam Benegal.

    Naz Foundation had filed a petition in December 2001 in the Delhi high court, which had on July 2, 2009, decriminalised Section 377. After refusing twice to entertain pleas against Section 377, the SC had on February 2 referred the issue to a five-judge bench.

    One, Suresh Kumar Koushal challenged the HC verdict in SC, which on December 11, 2013, had upheld the Constitutional validity of Section 377 and set aside the HC concession to the LGBT community . The SC had on January 28, 2014, dismissed the petitions seeking review of its decision. Naz Foundation's curative petition has been admitted and referred to a five-judge bench by the SC.

    The petitioners, in a 716page plea, said their lives have been “inexorably constricted and their rights infringed“ by Sec 377. “Despite their achievements and contributions to India in various fields, they are being denied the right to sexuality , the most basic and inherent of fundamental rights. Section 377 renders them criminals in their own country ,“ the petition said.
                   

    OUR TAKE

    The LGBT community in India is one that has voiced its opinions freely in the public forums. Their voices need to be taken into consideration before making any decision that will affect their lives. What has to be kept in mind is that, with the change in this law, millions of lives across the country will undergo a drastic transformation. Social acceptance and equality for the LGBT community will give a new branch and meaning to the Right of Life. It is high time that India catches up on that. Sexual orientation should not be made a factor on which the people of a modern and liberalized society should be judged upon.


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