India's top court legalises gay sex in landmark ruling

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"Sexual orientation is a natural phenomenon determined by biology and science", the court's judgement said.

At the same time, Maneka Guruswamy had quoted instances of discrimination faced by members of the LGBT community and said the petitioners sought emancipation of a "class of people left out of the promises of our Constitution".

"Social morality can not violate the rights of even one single individual", said CJI Misra and Justice Khanwilkar.

It is one of the world's oldest laws criminalising gay sex, and India has been reluctant to overturn it.

A five-judge Supreme Court Constitution bench on Thursday unanimously decriminalised consensual gay sex.

A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra had reserved its verdict on 17 July after hearing various stakeholders for four days, including gay rights activists. Respect for each other's rights, and others are supreme humanity.

Despite several curative petitions being filed subsequently, the court never listed it for hearing until recently.

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Replying to the argument Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said, "We don't settle constitutional issues by referendum".

Reading clauses (1) and (2) of Article 13 together, he argued that if section 377 was introduced in present day, it would not stand the test of Part III of the Constitution, and hence, the provision, as enacted in 1860, could not either.

While upholding the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right in 2017, the Supreme Court had termed "sexual orientation as an essential component of human identity". "What is unnatural? It can be between a man and man and also between a man and a woman".

"Any consensual sexual relationship between two consenting adults - homosexuals, heterosexuals or lesbians - can not be said to be unconstitutional", said the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, as he read out the judgment.

This was after the centre had told the Supreme Court that it would not take a stand on the issue but would, instead, leave it to the "wisdom" of the top court of the country.

The top court had commenced hearing on the fresh writ petitions challenging re-criminalisation of consensual gay sex between two adults, rejecting the Centre's plea seeking postponement of the proceedings by four weeks. This petition was Navtej Singh Johar and others versus Union of India, filed in 2016, after the Supreme Court struck down the Delhi high court order.

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