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Updated: September 18, 2009 02:23 IST

Cabinet: let SC decide on High Court ruling on gay sex

Aarti Dhar
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The decision on legalising homosexuality is now in the hands of the apex court. Photo: M.Vedhan
The decision on legalising homosexuality is now in the hands of the apex court. Photo: M.Vedhan

The Union Cabinet on Thursday left it to the Supreme Court to decide on the “correctness” of the Delhi High Court order decriminalising homosexuality.

The Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, discussed the report of the three-member Group of Ministers set up on the issue and decided that Attorney-General G. Vahanvati “assist” the Supreme Court “in every way desired by it in arriving at an opinion on the correctness of the judgment of the High Court,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told journalists.

Not taking any question on the issue, she repeatedly said she was not authorised to explain further as the matter related to Cabinet proceedings.

Heated debate

The High Court had passed the order decriminalising sex between consenting gay partners, earlier considered a criminal act under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.

There was a heated debate on the matter with some religious bodies opposing the ruling. A Christian organisation, a disciple of yoga guru Ramdev and the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights approached the Supreme Court, which sought the government’s response by October 1.

The Supreme Court earlier refused to stay the High Court order, saying it would await the government’s response.

In view of the sensitive nature of the issue, the government set up the Group of Ministers comprising P. Chidambaram (Home), Ghulam Nabi Azad (Health) and M. Veerappa Moily (Law) to formulate a view on it.

The GoM was understood to have suggested that the government should not take a stand but leave it to the Supreme Court.

“Important step”

Welcoming the Cabinet’s decision, UNAIDS said it took a small but extremely important step in the fight against HIV and AIDS by upholding the rights of men to have sex with other men and by not contesting the “historic” High Court ruling on Section 377.

“Let us be clear on exactly what removing the coercive and penal laws suppressing homosexuals’ rights means — free discussion can be had with people who are at much higher risks of HIV infection; sex between men will not be driven underground and away from the services which are needed to protect health and preserve well-being; and government and NGO clinics can provide openly services geared towards homosexuals,” an UNAIDS statement said.

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