Gay rights activists and groups today sharply reacted to the Supreme Court judgment upholding a penal provision making gay sex a punishable offence, describing it as an attempt to "stem the tide of history".
"We are deeply disappointed at the decision of the SC. The decision by overturning the historic Delhi High Court judgment which recognised that LGBT persons are full citizens of India attempts to stem the tide of history," the activists told media persons here.
"The judgment is an unconscionable blow to the dignity of LGBT persons who as per the Indian Constitution are entitled to equal treatment. It withdraws the protective arm of the Constitution from the LGBT persons and renders them vulnerable to discrimination, violence and harassment," they said.
The judgment is thus a deep betrayal of the fundamental constitutional promise that the dignity of all citizens would be recognised and the equal treatment is a non-negotiable element of the world's largest democracy, the activists said.
In this betrayal of constitutional faith the court has shredded the very principles it has sworn itself to uphold, they added.
Expressing her shock at the judgment, Anjali Gopalan, Director of Naz Foundation (India) Trust, the original petitioner who had challenged the constitutional validity of Section 377 in 2001 in Delhi High Court, said "I am stunned that the Supreme Court has legitimised all forms of violence and discrimination against the LGBT community and approved their criminalisation. We will pursue all legal options against today's verdict."
The High Court judgment was constitutionally sound, legally firm and by setting it aside, the Supreme Court has gone back on its own record of upholding and expanding the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution, she said.
On the occasion, Anand Grover, Senior Counsel and Director of Lawyers Collective, who represented Naz Foundation in both Delhi High Court and Supreme Court, said "I am extremely disappointed with the judgment. The Supreme Court has taken 21 months to tell the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons that they are criminals in the eyes of the law.
"The movement for LGBT equality is unstoppable, rooted as it is in the dignity and resilience of the LGBT persons. We will be filing a review of the present decision as soon as it is available."
The decision is also against the grain of international human rights law jurisprudence and scores of judicial decisions from other countries that have struck down anti-sodomy laws on grounds of violation of privacy, dignity and autonomy of individuals, he said.
Kanth said 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 protection for sexual offences against a male or male child except for this Section. Around 97 per cent of such offence 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 male or two female 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.
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 "bay day" for liberal values in the country.
"We are back into the dungeon all over again," gay rights activist Pallav Patankar said.