CHENNAI: The Supreme Court of India struck down a part of the archaic Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code in a landmark judgement. Celebrations have erupted across the country as India becomes one of the 120 countries that have legalised gay relationships.
Enforced by the British in 1861, Section 377 sought to penalise anyone who "voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal". Punishment may vary between life imprisonment and a term which may extend up to ten years, along with a fine.
A five-judge panel led by Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, delivered the judgement which has been lauded as "one of the most beautiful and romantic" ever made. AM Khanwilkar, RF Nariman, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra were the other judges on the bench.
Here are a few notable quotes from the historic judgement:
CJI Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar:
"I am what I am. So take me as I am. No one can escape from their individuality." - CJI Dipak Misra, quoting German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer
"Look for the rainbows in the clouds."
"Denial of self-expression is like death"
"Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is [a] violation of freedom of speech and expression."
"Section 377 is irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary."
"Sans identity the name only remains a plain factor. Emphasis is laid on the identity of a person. The sustenance of identity is the pillar of life."
Justice RF Nariman:
"Homosexuality is not a mental disorder or a disease."
"Centre must give wide publicity of its verdict to put to end the social stigma associated with homosexuality."
"Homosexuals have the right to live with dignity."
Justice DY Chandrachud:
"Section 377 is a colonial legacy and it continued in the law book even after independence."
"Individual liberty is a soul of the Constitution."
"Human sexuality cannot be confined to a binary."
"Section 377 has travelled so much that it has been destructive of their (LGBTQ) identity."
Justice Indu Malhotra:
"History owes an apology to those people persecuted by Section 377 for the social ostracism caused by the section."
All kinds of adult consensual sexual behaviour are now permitted by law in the country. The verdict, however, pointed out that bestiality (sex with animals), sexual acts without consent and those involving a minor, which also fell under the purview of Section 377, will continue to be a crime.
Today's events have redeemed the Delhi High Court's 2009 judgement which decriminalised homosexuality. The apex court had then undone the ruling and left the decision to the parliament.