International desk – India’s Supreme Court on Thursday in a historic decision legalised gay sex overturning a 2013 judgement that upheld a British colonial era law which made it a punishable offence.
A five-judge panel headed by Indian outgoing Chief Justice Dipak Misra came up with the unanimous decision that gay sex is no more a criminal offence.
The British-era law known as section 377 categorised gay sex as an unnatural offence.
The court has now ruled discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a fundamental violation of rights.
Campaigners outside the court cheered and some broke down in tears as the ruling was handed down, according to a BBC report.
Although public opinion in India’s biggest cities has been in favour of scrapping the law, there remains strong opposition among religious groups and in conservative rural communities.
But this ruling, from the top court, is now the final say in the matter and cannot be challenged. As such, it represents a huge victory for India’s LGBT community.
“Criminalising carnal intercourse is irrational, arbitrary and manifestly unconstitutional,” Misra said reading out the judgement.
Another judge, Indu Malhotra, said she believed “history owes an apology” to LGBT people for ostracising them.
Justice DY Chandrachud said the state had no right to control the private lives of LGBT community members and that the denial of the right to sexual orientation was the same as denying the right to privacy.
The ruling effectively allows gay sex among consenting adults in private.
The colonial era law criminalises certain sexual acts as “unnatural offences” that are punishable by 10 years in jail.
Human rights groups say police have used the statute to harass and abuse members of the LGBT community.