Amid protests against the Supreme Court judgment criminalising homosexuality, Law Minister Kapil Sibal on Wednesday maintained that Parliament would be the final arbiter of the 19th century-vintage Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. But, given the opposition from several parties, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde indicated that changing the law could well be an uphill task in the absence of a political consensus.
Several Congress MPs and leaders have spoken out in favour of decriminalisation of homosexuality. At least three younger members of the Union Council of Ministers — Shashi Tharoor, R.P.N. Singh and Milind Deora — took to the micro blogging site Twitter to support a change in law as did another member of the Congress youth brigade in Parliament, Priya Dutt.
That the government is not opposed to decriminalising homosexuality was indicated by Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari, who pointed out that the former Law Minister, Veerappa Moily, said on record a couple of years ago that Section 377 deserved to be decriminalised. Other Congress leaders pointed out that the government’s decision not to challenge the Delhi High Court judgment decriminalising Section 377 was in itself an articulation of the party position on this contentious issue.
BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad told The Hindu: “We will go through the [Supreme Court] judgment; examine it and then comment.” Party treasurer Piyush Goyal said on Twitter that there was nothing unnatural in homosexuality and favoured amending the law.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which held a victory rally right next to the venue of the “We Are All Queer” protest against the judgment in Jantar Mantar on Wednesday afternoon, also said it would voice an opinion after reading the verdict.
“How can a lifestyle choice be illegal?”
While CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat said his party was long in favour of decriminalising homosexuality, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said on Twitter: “How can a lifestyle choice be illegal? SC removes red lights for equality yet not #377.”
Bijayant Jay Panda of the Biju Janata Dal, too, spoke up against the state interfering in the private lives of two consenting adults and Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress said he had been advocating for decriminalising Section 377 since 2006.