NEW DELHI: Congress member Shashi Tharoor today blamed the BJP for using its "brute majority" in Lok Sabha to thwart his second attempt in three months to introduce a private member's bill to decriminalise homosexuality.
Tharoor said it was "religious bigotry" of the ruling party that had disallowed discussion on his private bill to amend the "colonial era" section 377 of the IPC which criminalises homosexuality, adding that Parliament was a place for open deliberations on all issues.
He used the opportunity to voice his anguish while moving another bill on the Rights of Transgender Persons when the House was transacting Private Members' Business. A few minutes before, the Lok Sabha, for the second time in three months, voted against the introduction of Tharoor's Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2016 to amend Section 377 of the IPC.
Expressing anguish at the rejection of his bill at the introduction stage, Tharoor said it was "a low in the proud annals of Indian democracy" where "brute majority prevailed over the rights of a member" to bring the measure.
The Congress member regretted that the House was not allowed to deliberate on a law which was framed by the British rulers on the principles of Victorian morality. In effect, the bill aims to decriminalise sexual intercourse in private between consenting adults, irrespective of their sexuality or gender by restricting the applicability of the section.
As Tharoor sought to introduce the private member's bill, BJP members negated the motion but the Congress member insisted on a division of House. 58 out of 73 members present voted against introduction of the Bill, while 14 favoured it. One member abstained from voting.
The Supreme Court in December 2013 overturned a verdict of the Delhi High Court that had set aside Section 377 of the IPC asking the government to take a view on the controversial subject of decriminalising homosexuality.
The Delhi High Court in 2009 ruled that Section 377 was unconstitutional. Tharoor's previous attempt to introduce a similar bill in the Lok Sabha on December 18 too was voted out. Tharoor had then said he would make another attempt to introduce the bill.
While extending support to the Transgender Bill which was already approved by the Rajya Sabha, Tharoor said Indian culture and tradition has several references to transgenders and there was a pressing need to treat them with dignity.