By Nivvedan Senthamil Selvan, Mumbai
The Attorney General of India has appeared in the Supreme Court today to clarify that the government does not have any legal objections to the decriminalization of homosexuality by the Delhi High Court in 2009.
Early this year, around 20 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court of India against the 2009 High Court ruling and the case is now being heard by the Supreme Court.
The government has not been in the Supreme Court’s good books over the legalising of homosexuality in India.
The government has been criticized by the Supreme Court judges over its shifting stance on homosexuality and its “callous attitude towards the case.”
Trouble started for the government when the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Mr. P P Malhotra, representing the Ministry of Home Affairs, stated in the Supreme Court that homosexuality was “an unnatural offence.” This is the exact same line the government took in the Delhi High Court hearing in 2009.
The statement by Mr. Malhotra became a media sensation in the sub-continent, provoking the Ministry of Home Affairs to immediately issue a press statement to contradict Mr. Malhotra, emphasizing the neutral stance of them.
However, the Supreme Court bench said it is a peculiar case in which the government is taking a neutral stand and sought further clarification from the government.
Another ASG, Mr. Mohan Jain, appeared before the court and stated that Mr. Malhotra’s statement was outdated and it was the Government’s position before the 2009 High Court judgement, not the view held now.
He further added there had been developments after the High Court’s verdict and the cabinet has since decided that there was no legal error in the judgement and they now support the decriminalization of homosexuality.
This was yet another shift in the governments stance and although a positive one it really pushed the judges to the edge.
The Supreme Court asked the government “not to make mockery of the system” and not to waste the court’s time. They further directed the Attorney General, Mr. G E Vahanvati, to personally appear before the court and clarify the government’s stance.
Mr. Vahanvati appeared before the Supreme Court today and informed the court that the government fully accepts the decriminalization of “consensual sexual acts between adults in private.”
He said that although the government “initially opposed the decriminalization, it later realised that the high court verdict was correct.
“The High Court verdict decriminalizing homosexuality is acceptable to us and we learnt and got subsequently enlightened after the verdict.”
He also added on the government’s behalf that “criminalizing sexual acts among consenting adults in private is violation of fundamental rights.”