India mulls law to overturn gay sex ban

Federal government is likely to pass an ordinance to negate court verdict that reinstated gay sex ban.

    India mulls law to overturn gay sex ban
    Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling sparked outrage and street protests [AP]

    In an unusually quick response, India’s federal government is considering a quick legislation to neutralise the Supreme Court verdict making gay sex illegal.

    Top ministers of the  Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) have indicated that the government may negate the court’s judgment through an ordinance. 

    The country’s gay rights groups and large sections of the political class, media, lawyers and ministers have expressed outrage over the top court’s ruling on Wednesday which made gay sex illegal and liable for life in jail.

    An ordinance is a shortcut method of introducing a law, which otherwise has to be discussed in parliament and then passed.  Since parliament is already occupied by other important bills and discussions,  and the government is not sure whether the opposition will back it, an ordinance is a better way to ensure that the verdict is neutralised straightaway.

    Reports quoting federal law minister Kapil Sibal on Friday said the government was keen to take quick action to decriminalise homosexuality.  He was also quoted as indicating that the government would simultaneously approach the court for a judicial review of the verdict.

    "We need to take quick and firm action," the reports said, quoting Sibal. Millions of Indians do not want gay sex to be a criminal offence, the minister said.

    However, as per Indian laws, an ordinance can only be passed when parliament is not in session. The current session, the last before next year’s national elections, is scheduled to end on December 20.

    Though the ruling Congress has made clear its opposition to the verdict, the opposition does not appear to be on the same page. Opposition nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj demanded that an all-party meeting be held before an ordinance is passed, reports said.

    The BJP, with its conservative following, is at best a divided house on the issue. None of its leaders has openly criticised the ruling making homosexuality an offence. “We cannot react to the apex court judgment,” said reports, quoting Swaraj.

    An influential figure in the BJP, former minister Subramanian Swamy, has been quoted as having said that most Indians supported the court verdict and wanted gay sex to remain a criminal offence.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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