SC: Sec 377 hearing

The Supreme Court stopped short of making an affirmative declaration to end discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals and insisted that all discrimination against them would end once it struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which makes all homosexual behaviour a criminal offence.

The court stuck to its position that it would only deal with the constitutional validity of Section 377. It said it would be enough to ensure that the community leads a life of dignity it deserved, gets equal opportunities to work and also have intimate relationships without being harassed and demeaned.

A five-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra Justices RF Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, is dealing with a host of petitions which have said that Section 377 violated a host of rights of LGBTs, including the right to lead a dignified life and other consequential rights such as privacy. The court has already clarified that it hopes the community would be able to enjoy all other consequential rights available to a citizen such as the right to cohabit etc., once the offence excludes all consensual adult sexual behavior.

The court has, however, drawn a line at debating the broader civil rights of the community such as marriage, adoption, maintenance etc. The CJI also refused to examine the implications of Section 377 on the community’s right to conscience under Article 25.

On Wednesday, the court had heard the community’s grievance about not being able to get together to agitate their rights democratically, not being able to float companies for common good and not being able to contest polls. When arguments resumed on Thursday, senior advocate CU Singh, appearing for mental health professionals, argued that the stress and strain of being constantly treated like criminals plays havoc with the community’s mental health.

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