On Tuesday, a newly-constituted five-judge constitution bench began hearing of petitions filed by a number of activists challenging the legality of Section 377 of the IPC that criminalises private consensual sex between adults. Following the hearing the central government on Tuesday sought some more time to file its response, however, on Wednesday it came with its stance and left the decision of constitutionality of Section 377 on the Supreme Court. The bench that is headed by CJI Dipak Misra also includes Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.

What is Section 377 of IPC:

Introduced during the colonial rule, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was introduced in the Constitution in 1861. It states that any person who gets involved in sexual activities “against the order of nature”, including gay sex. The one found guilty will be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

The never-ending debates over gay sex rights first gathered the momentum in 2009 when the Delhi High Court dubbed Section 377 as a violation of fundamental rights written in the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court overruled the Delhi High Court’s order in 2013. Recriminalising homosexuality, the apex courts stated that repealing or amending of Section 377 should be left to Parliament. The judgement also faced the wrath of the LGBTQ community in India and was seen as a setback for human rights.

Notably, the Supreme Court decided to reassess its 2013 verdict. In January 2018, the apex court announced that will also examine Section 377’s constitutional validity. It decided to go through the petitions filed by five persons who have been living in a fear of being prosecuted.  Also, the court’s last year judgement on Right To Privacy also brought some hope for the LGBTQ community.

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