Man who stabbed his friend to death cleared of murder after using ‘gay panic’ defence

A man in India has had his murder conviction and life sentence overturned after using a ‘gay panic’ defence.

The accused has been let out of prison following the ruling by Mumbai’s high court, having served six years and nine months for repeatedly stabbing another man until he died.

The defence, which is banned in California, Rhode Island and – earlier this year – Illinois, has been historically used countless times across the world to excuse the killing of a queer person, despite being a debunked theory.

Mumbai’s High Court (wikimedia commons)

Last month, Democrats in Congress filed a bill to outlaw the use of the ‘gay panic’ defence across the US after it was used as recently as April, in Texas.

The 35-year-old man in India saw Justices Bhushan Gavai and Sarang Kotwal hand him a lighter sentence after his lawyers offered the defence, according to The Times of India.

The judges found him guilty of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, rather than his original murder conviction, after he said he killed his friend, a butcher, because he assaulted him and forced him into “unnatural sex.”

He killed the man in 2011 (Creative Commons)

In their statement to the court, the Justices said: “We are of the considered view that the explanation, as given by the (accused), is plausible.

“If a person is asked to indulge in unnatural sex and assaulted, it is quite probable such a person in heat of passion would assault the person demanding such [an] unnatural act.

“We find that the sentence undergone by the (accused) would serve the ends of justice.”

His lawyers had told the court that though he was responsible for his friend’s death in November 2011, he had attacked him “in the heat of passion.”

An LGBT pride parade in New Delhi on November 12, 2017. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

An LGBT pride parade in New Delhi in 2017 (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty)

Public prosecutor Sultana Sonawane argued against this ‘gay panic’ defence, saying that the multiple stab wounds present on the butcher’s corpse showed that the accused had wanted to kill him.

But the judges decided in the accused’s favour, saying: “We are of the considered view that the (accused) is entitled to the benefit of [the] doubt.”

India’s Supreme Court is in the midst of deciding whether to strike down the country’s sodomy law.

Indian LGBT activists hold placards as they demonstrate against the Supreme Court's reinstatement of Section 377, which bans gay sex in a law dating from India's colonial era, in Bangalore on January 28, 2014. India's top court January 28 rejected a plea filed by the government and activist groups to review its shock ruling which reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian activists demonstrate against the Supreme Court’s reinstatement of Section 377 in 2014 (Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty)

Colonial-era penal code Section 377, which criminalises sex “against the order of nature,” has been widely used to clamp down on the LGBT community in India, which is home to 1.3 billion people.

LGBT campaigners have been calling for the repeal of the law since it was brought back into effect by a court ruling in 2013.

The country’s Supreme Court is currently hearing a case relating to the law, and there have been a number of positive signs indicating that justices could strike down the anti-gay law.