The Supreme Court started hearing the Section 377 case today, as a five judge bench including Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, sat down to decide if Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. The first day of the hearing had senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi present arguments before the judges to prove that Section 377 tramples upon the rights of queer individuals.
As Mr. Rohtagi was arguing the case, and at one point put forth before the judges that the present case goes beyond Section 377 and raises questions about legal status of same-sex relationships as well, the Attorney Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, who is representing Union of India, objected and said that the present case should only be restricted to Section 377. When Mr. Rohtagi retorted that he cannot decide what can be argued or not, he said in that case the government should be allowed to file its reply. Following this the bench agreed to restrict themselves to only Section 377, and not LGBT rights in general.
It must be noted that the Governemnt of India (GoI), despite being asked by the Supreme Court, has not filed its response to the various petitions seeking to repeal Section 377, and had tried to further delay the proceedings by asking the court to not begin hearing the case until it files its reply. Now, NDTV reports that the NDA government is likely to oppose the scrapping of Section 377.
In its program ‘Left, Right and Centre: Time to End Section 377’, NDTV reported that the Attorney General has indicated that the government is likely to ask the SC to not scrap Section 377. Talking to NDTV, AG KK Venugopal said, “I had appeared in the curative petition and I am told the government’s stand is different. Therefore I am not appearing in that case.. I cannot appear in the case because I had taken a different stand.”
Mr. Venugopal had appeared for the petitioner after the Supreme Court had refused to review its 2013 decision upholding Section 377 as constitutional, arguing against the judgement.