Several Non Resident Indian Groups have welcomed a recent India’s Supreme Court ruling that has opened the door to equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender citizens. Citing the “constitutional importance” of a petition to reverse its 2013 ruling upholding Section 377 of India’s Penal Code — which criminalizes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” — the three-judge panel decided to refer the petition to a five-judge panel headed by India’s chief justice.
Section 377, which dates back to 1861, has rarely been enforced, but it has been used to harass and blackmail gays, lesbians and transgender people. In 2009, the Delhi High Court struck the law down, ruling that Section 377 violated the rights to liberty and equality enshrined in India’s Constitution. But in 2013, the Supreme Court voided the lower court’s ruling, saying it was up to India’s Parliament to change the law. So far, attempts to do that have failed.
In December, Shashi Tharoor, an opposition member in Parliament, introduced a bill that would have rewritten Section 377 to limit the criminalization of private sexual acts to nonconsensual sex and sex with minors, but it was voted down by a large margin.
Mr. Tharoor says he will resubmit his bill this spring — if only to spur public debate on gay rights. But India’s gay, lesbian and transgender citizens should not have to wait for lawmakers to repeal this antiquated and unjust law. When the five-judge panel convenes (no date has yet been set), it should reverse the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision and consign Section 377 to India’s colonial past, where it belongs.