The High Court of Delhi in the Indian capital has agreed to place on fast track a case challenging anti-homosexual law. The court also found nothing wrong with gay rallies.
Naz Foundation, a non-governmental organization, has filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court praying that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) be declared unconstitutional. The provision prescribes punishment up to life sentence for indulging in homosexual acts. The Foundation says the sections militates against the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Indian constitution and also promotes illegal sex.
"People (homosexuals) are being increasingly victimised by the society. Time is a crucial factor in the case and we want this matter to be heard on day-to-day basis," advocate Anil Grover, appearing for the NGO, said.
The petitioner pleaded that the matter be heard on a priority as it had been pending in the court for the last three years.
Accepting the contention, the court agreed to hear the matter daily and listed the matter for hearing on July 21.
"Section 377 demeans a gay man. It silences a gay man into accepting the discrimination against him. He will not come out to declare his orientation," the NGO has said in it petition.
It also stressed that it was unacceptable to make sex between consenting adults, whatever be the form, an offence.
The federal government seems to be speaking in two voices in the issue. While the Ministry of Home Affairs favours the retention of penal provisions, the Health Ministry has spoken out against prosecuting consenting homosexuals.
"Indian society strongly disapproves of homosexuality and disapproval is strong enough to justify it being treated as a criminal offence even where consenting adults indulge in it in private," the Home Ministry had said in its affidavit.
"Deletion of the Section can open the flood gates of delinquent behaviour and be misconstrued as providing unbridled licence for homosexual acts," it had said.
But an affidavit filed by National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), which comes under the Ministry of Health noted, "Enforcement of Section 377 can adversely contribute to pushing the persons suffering from HIV underground, which would make such risky sexual practices go unnoticed."
Pointing to the vulnerability of homosexuals to HIV infection, the NACO had said that there were around 25 lakh male homosexuals and around eight per cent of them were infected with HIV while in normal people the infection was only one per cent.
During the hearing Friday anti-gay rights activists, who have impleaded themselves in the case, expressed their objection to the recent gay rally in New Delhi, but Justice A.K.Sikri retorted, "Such marches are held all over the world. Recently in London more that five lakh people were on the streets for the cause. There is nothing unusual in holding such rallies. ...If people think that they are doing something wrong then police is there to take action against them..."