New Delhi: Gay rights activists were on Wednesday up in arms against the Supreme Court verdict that upheld a law criminalising homosexuality, calling it a 'black day' for the LGBT community and vowed to carry on the fight to restore their rights including seeking its review.
As members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community expressed shock and disappointment at the verdict, Additional Solicitor General of Indira Jaisingh threw her weight behind them, saying the court position is an imposition of 'medieval mindset' on the people of the country.
She questioned its 'double standards' of the apex court in dealing with human rights issues after it quashed a 2009 Delhi High Court verdict and made gay sex illegal and a punishable offence again under Section 377 IPC.
She raised question as to why the court put the ball in the court of legislature to decide on the issue when so many other matters and policies are being reviewed by it.
"Historical opportunity to expand constitutional values has been lost," Jaising said, adding, "It is surprising that the court, which does judicial review on many issues, has put the ball in the court of Parliament to decide on homosexuality."
"What surprises me is the double standards here. When it is a question of human rights, why send it to the Parliament when the Supreme Court is itself the observer of the human rights," she commented after the verdict.
SC verdict on homosexuality 'retrograde': Jairam Ramesh
Union Minister Jairam Ramesh termed the verdict as 'retrograde' and wondered why it is a crime if two consenting men and two consenting women share physical relations.
"Personally, I think it is a retrograde judgement and it has no justice to a modern liberal India. If two consenting men and two consenting women...why should be illegal," Ramesh said reacting to the apex court verdict.
"It is choice issue...Personal choice...it is a liberal society, a modern society...a society that gives choice to individual...suddenly if it is illegal....?," the Rural Development Minister said.
Lifestyle choice cannot be illegal: Omar Abdullah
Reacting to the Supreme Court verdict upholding section 377 of IPC, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said a lifestyle choice cannot be illegal.
"People can take whatever stand their religious/moral beliefs dictate regarding #LGBT lifestyle choices but is terming it illegal not wrong?" Omar wrote on Twitter.
The chief minister said it was not a question of morality or religion, but that a lifestyle choice cannot be illegal.
"Questions of morality or religion are not the issue. How can a lifestyle choice be illegal? SC removes red lights for equality yet not #377," he said.
'Shocked by the ruling'
Anjali Gopalan, founder of Naz Foundation, an NGO that was the first to file the petition for decriminalising section 377, said she was 'shocked' by the ruling.
"This is taking many, many steps back. The Supreme Court has not just let down the LGBT. community but the Constitution of India."
"The verdict was totally unexpected from the top court. It is a black day for the community," Arvind Narayan, a lawyer of the Alternative Law Forum gay rights group, told reporters.
Gay rights activists who were inside the courtroom were visibly upset while some outside broke down and hugged each other in consolation.
Advocate Anand Grover, who had argued the case, said Naz Foundation would file a petition for a review of the top court's decision.
SC must review orders: Shivanand Tiwari
Janata Dal United (JD-U) leader Shivanand Tiwari spoke against the SC order. "I don't support the Supreme Court decision. I think the Delhi High Court order was practical and constitutional," Tiwari told media here.
"We are not in favour of the SC's decision, it is regressive. SC must review it," he added.
Astonished by the verdict: Vikram Seth
Noted author Vikram Seth said he was astonished at the apex court verdict especially after the Delhi High Court came out with a 'carefully worded' judgment.
Supreme Court lawyer and AAP leader Prashant Bhushan said it was a 'bad day' for liberal values in the country.
"We are back into the dungeon all over again," gay rights activist Pallav Patankar said.
"This decision is a body blow to people's rights to equality, privacy and dignity," said G Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India. He said Government of India had said that it was in favour of decriminalising homosexuality.
"Now is the time to act on its word. Parliament must immediately pass legislation to restore the rights and freedom that have been denied today," Ananthapadmanabhan said.
Government on its part said it will have to abide by the verdict. "We have to abide by the decision," Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said. "The opinion of the Supreme Court has to be respected by the government," Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal said.
'Gay relationships are unethical, unnatural'
The judgement was, however, welcomed by Amod Kanth, General Secretary of Prayas, who was one of the petitioners against the Delhi High Court verdict.
Kanth said Section 377 was the only protection for sexual offences against a male or a male child. It was also a protection against unnatural sex and bestiality, he said.
"In India, there is no protection for sexual offences against a male or male child except for this Section. Around 97 per cent of such offences are made against the male child in the country," said Kanth, a former Chairman of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR).
He said decriminalisation of Section 377 would have denied the child's basic rights to family and impeded his normal development, as two males or two females don't constitute a family.
S.Q.R Ilyas, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board which had filed a petition in the case asking that the high court ruling be reversed, praised the verdict.
"These relationships are unethical as well as unnatural," Ilyas said. "They create problems in society, both moral and social. This is a sin as far as Islam is concerned."
Yoga guru Ramdev welcomed the judgement, saying it respects the sentiments of religious communities of the country.
"The Supreme Court has respected the sentiments of the various religious communities of India. Today they are talking of homosexuality, tomorrow they will talk of having sex with animals," he said, calling homosexuality a disease.
The legal fight of gay rights activists has witnessed many twist and turns in courts. When the matter was being adjudicated in the Delhi High Court, Home Ministry and Health Ministry took a contradictory stand on section 377 of the IPC with the former favouring continuation of the penal provision and the latter supporting scrapping of the provision.
The Centre, however, took a uniform stand when the appeal against the Delhi High Court judgement for decriminalising gay sex was heard in the apex court. During the arguments in the case before the apex court, the Centre had supported decriminalisation of gay sex saying the anti-gay law in the country had resulted from British colonialism and the Indian society was much more tolerant towards homosexuality.
The legal fight for gay rights began in the Delhi High Court when Naz Foundation, working for the welfare of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT), filed a PIL for decriminalising gay sex.
The high court had, however, initially twice dismissed the plea and the NGO thereafter moved the Supreme Court which directed the high court to hear the case and decide the issue on merits. After a marathon hearing, the Delhi High Court had allowed the plea of gay rights activists and had decriminalised gay sex among consenting adults in private.
Thereafter, various social, religious and child rights organisations, including various individuals, had approached the apex court challenging the high court's verdict.