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Supreme Court denies centre plea to delay hearing on section 377

New Delhi | The Supreme Court on Monday rejection central governments plea to adjourn the hearing a batch of petitions against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality.

The Constitutional bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud refused to adjourn the matter when the Centre asked for time to file its response to the petitions. The bench further said “We will go ahead with the scheduled hearing. We will not adjourn it. You can file whatever you want during the hearing.”

The Supreme Court earlier revealed that two new judges will hear the challenge; the Bench will now comprise Chief Justice Misra and Justices Rohinton Nariman, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra. Earlier, Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan were part of the Bench along with Misra J., Khanwilkar J. and Chandrachud J which was supposed to hear the petitions against Section 377 of the IPC matter pertaining to the LGBTQ community on Tuesday.

Earlier on January 8, the Supreme Court said that it will re-examine its verdict upholding Section 377, and observed that “a section of people or individuals who exercise their choice should never remain in a state of fear”. The order came in response of the petition by Bharatnatyam dancer Navtej Singh Johar, celebrity chef Ritu Dalmia and others holding that Section 377 was “violative of fundamental rights under the Constitution’s Article 21 (right to life)”.

The apex court in May had decided to hear the plea filed by Indian Institute of Technology’s LGBT alumni association seeking scrapping of Section 377 of IPC. Previously, on April 27 this year, Ashok Rao Kavi of Humsafar Trust and Arif Jaffar had also filed petitions challenging Section 377. Hotelier Keshav Suri had also filed a plea in this regard in the top court. In response to Suri’s plea, the apex court on April 23 sought the Centre’s reply on the plea seeking scrapping of Section 377.

Section 377 refers to “unnatural offences” and says whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse “against the order of nature” with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 10 years, and shall also be liable to pay a fine.

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