In a huge victory for LGBT Rights, Supreme Court referred the curative petition on Section 377 to a larger 5 judge constitutional bench. Mr. Kapil Sibal appeared on behalf of Voices Against 377. The matter was heard by three senior most judges of the court, including Chief Justice TS Thakur in an open court and the bench today agreed that the case needed to be relooked at by a larger constitutional bench of five judges.

With this, the Section 377 case reopens, and the petitioners will get a chance to argue before the bench afresh. This is only the 4th Curative Petition to have been admitted by the court. According to a report in Time of India, the bench said: “There are important constitutional questions involved in the issue relating to decriminalizing consensual gay sex within the privacy of a house.”

The dates for the next hearing have not been announced, and the court is yet to form the bench that will hear the case. Muslim Personal Law Board and Churches of India were the parties present in the hearing today who had opposed the curative petition.

In Dec 2013, a two judge bench had reversed a 2009 Delhi High court judgement that had decriminalised consensual sex between adults. A review petition filed before the court was also dismissed. A curative petition, which was the last legal resort in the case, was then filed before the court in April 2014. The 2013 judgement of the apex court was widely criticized for the narrow interpretation of the law. The court though had left the onus on the Parliament to amend or repeal the Section, if it deemed fit.

Dr. Shashi Tharoor tried bringing in a Private Member’s Bill in the winter session of the Parliament in Dec 2015, but the bill was opposed by BJP MPs at the introduction stage itself, and was defeated 71-24, effectively stalling any discussion on the matter in the Parliament.

Note: Members of the LGBT Community will gather at Connaught Place, New Delhi at 6 pm for a small demonstration.

Sukhdeep Singh