Indian Supreme Court defends anti-gay ruling after government criticism

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

The Supreme Court of India has criticised government ministers for speaking out against last month’s decision of the court to re-criminalise homosexuality.

On 11 December, India’s highest court upheld a colonial-era law which criminalises same-sex sexual activity.

The Supreme Court threw out a 2009 New Delhi High Court decision that ruled the law was unconstitutional.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the Supreme Court ruling had taken India “back to 1860″.

India’s Law Minister Kapil Sibal also criticised the move, saying “the archaic law should be changed, millions of people are affected and these people should not be exposed to 377.”

Section 377 of India’s penal code bans “sex against the order of nature”, which is widely interpreted to mean gay sex, and can be punished with up to 10 years in jail – although at the moment prosecutions remain rare.

LGBT campaigners in India and around the world reacted with shock at the ruling.

But on Friday the court issued a defiant warning aimed at several of the country’s politicians.

Chief Justice of India, P Sathasivam, said: “We agree that that one or two statements by few ministers are not acceptable and they were not in good taste. Though they have right to criticise our judgments, persons occupying high positions must realise their responsibilities.”

The Supreme Court had been petitioned to take action against several ministers, over claims their criticism of the judgment amounted to violating their oath of office.

However, the court confirmed that it would not be intervening over the matter.

“We can’t say anything wrong with the statement of Finance minister. But others made unwanted comments,” Justice Sathasivam said.

“Except making our displeasure we can’t do anything. Though the statements are not appreciable we are not inclined to entertain the petition,” he added.