Section 377

Attorney general G E Vahanvati told a SC bench of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya, which is hearing a bunch of appeals against the July 2, 2009 verdict, that the Centre accepted the correctness of the ruling. The Delhi HC had in 2009 ordered decriminalizing gay sex in private between consenting adults, which was feted by gay activists and liberals as a breakthrough for the struggle for the recognition of alternative sexuality. The activists should also be pleased with the attorney general’s submission since the Centre never opposed the judgment. However, Vahanvati’s statement in the SC may appear to mark a shift from passive acquiescence into the HC verdict towards concurrence with it. Interestingly, it took an embarrassing message mix-up for the Centre to clarify its position on endorsing the 2009 verdict. Vahanvati said lack of communication between the home ministry and the law officer led to the confusion and reiteration of the old view before the apex court. This was immediately corrected by filing of an affidavit by the home secretary, he added. While giving the clarification, the top law officer did not forget to address the court’s serious concern about the legal ramifications of an important expression—“carnal intercourse against the order of nature” —contained in Section 377. Vahanvati said it was an important issue, but the HC did not attempt to fathom the legal width of its play in the personal lives of people contrasting with the changing social ethos and values.

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