Is India on way to legalise gay sex?

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Is India on way to legalise gay sex?

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court is all set to hear a number of pleas challenging section 377 of the IPC today. Section 377 of the IPC criminalises consensual gay sex between two adults.

The court also rejected the Centre's plea to delay the hearings. The Centre had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, requesting four more weeks to file its response in the matter. The court, however, refused the government's plea. The hearing will commence as scheduled from July 10.

A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra will hear the pleas.

Section 377 refers to 'unnatural offences' 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 of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine.

The Delhi High Court, on July 2, 2009, had legalised homosexual acts among consenting adults, holding that the 149-year-old law making it a criminal offence was violative of the fundamental rights. But, the Supreme Court in 2013 restored section 377 thus criminalising homosexuality again. Review petitions were filed after the Supreme Court's decision in 2013. On the dismissal of these petitions, curative petitions were filed by the affected parties for re-examination of the original verdict.

Several other fresh petitions, including a plea by a group of 20 former and current students of the prestigious IITs, were also filed seeking restoration of the Delhi High Court verdict in the case.

The apex court on January 8 referred to a five-judge constitution bench, several pleas filed by eminent citizens and NGO 'Naaz Foundation' challenging the 2013 verdict which had re-criminalised gay sex between consenting adults. It had also sought a response from the government.

The top court had dealt with two separate pleas filed by LGBT rights activists Arif Jafar, Ashok Row Kavi and others including Mumbai-based NGO 'Humsafar Trust' which fights for LGBT rights. It had on April 23 sought the Centre's reply on a hotelier's plea for striking down section 377. The Supreme Court also received similar pleas by celebrities like dancer NS Johar, chef Ritu Dalmia and another hotelier Aman Nath challenging the validity of section 377 criminalising the consensual gay sex.

While agreeing to reconsider the 2013 verdict criminalising gay sex, the top court had in January this year said the section of people or individuals who exercise their choice should never "remain in a state of fear". It had also said the determination of the order of nature was not a constant phenomenon as social morality changed from age to age.