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India Supreme Court to hear curative plea on law criminalizing gay sex

Tuesday, April 22, 2014
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NEW DELHI — India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a plea by gay rights activists to reconsider its controversial decision to reinstate a 153-year-old law that criminalizes same-sex sexual activity.

The Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

The Supreme Court of India in New Delhi.

A four-judge bench has agreed to give an open court hearing to petitions filed by gay rights activists challenging the high court’s verdict upholding the validity of Section 377 (unnatural sexual offenses) of the Indian Penal Code which makes gay sex an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The curative petition is the last judicial resort available for redressal of grievances in court, and is typically decided by Judges in chamber without giving parties the opportunity to address the court. In rare cases, such petitions are given an open court hearing.

A December 2013 ruling by the court struck down a 2009 lower court decision that decriminalized gay sex.

The ruling dealt a blow to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India’s deeply conservative society, and has drawn sharp criticism from human rights advocates worldwide.

The law, dating back to the 1860s, when Britain ruled over South Asia, states that “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.

The Court had previously declined to reconsider the verdict, saying it did not see a reason to interfere with the ruling.

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