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HomeIndiaGovernanceMost progressive judgment ever: UPA-era law secy hails Supreme Court’s 377 verdict

Most progressive judgment ever: UPA-era law secy hails Supreme Court’s 377 verdict

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T.K. Viswanathan had backed Delhi HC’s 2009 ruling on the section, but his opinion was ignored by the group of ministers headed by P. Chidambaram.

New Delhi: Former union law secretary T.K. Viswanathan has hailed the Supreme Court’s verdict on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which decriminalised homosexuality on Thursday.

In July 2009, when the Delhi High Court declared that homosexuality was not illegal, Viswanathan had given an opinion to a group of ministers headed by then home minister P. Chidambaram in which he backed the judgment, saying it did not suffer from any legal infirmity. But the Congress-led UPA government had ignored his opinion, and eventually, in 2013, the Supreme Court had overturned the high court judgment.

Viswanathan spoke to ThePrint today after the five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra decriminalised homosexuality once again. He has hailed the “excellent” judgment.

“It shouldn’t have taken almost two decades (the first judicial challenge to Section 377 began in 2001). But, it is an excellent judgment. We have to keep pace with changes in the world,” Viswanathan told ThePrint.

“We want our laws to keep pace with modern 21st century changes, but after ensuring they meet somebody’s so-called moral standards. The police can’t intrude into your privacy to check your morals.


Also read: Section 377 verdict: Can we start calling the CJI the CEO of India?


“How can my right be greater than yours only because your sexual preference is different from mine? The Constitution talks of equality before law, doesn’t it? I think the Supreme Court has done the right thing. This judgment will go down as one of the most progressive judgments ever.

“But the more important issue that has been settled today is that that every Indian has autonomy within the four walls of his or her home. As long as you aren’t breaking the law, you can’t be disturbed or your freedoms curbed. This, to mind, is what has been settled, more effectively, today by the court.”

Why UPA ignored him

When the Delhi High Court gave its judgment on Section 377, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had constituted a panel comprising home minister Chidambaram, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and law minister M. Veerappa Moily to finalise the government’s stand on the issue.

Law secretary Viswanathan, in his opinion to the panel, had written: “Individual rights and liberties have been phenomenally expanded by the courts and have been propelled to great heights and the Delhi HC judgment is a step further in this direction.”

However, the view in the cabinet was that any overt support for the LGBT community could cost the government votes of the majority Hindu and Muslim voters.

Incidentally, since many — within and outside the government — had said the section was required to be retained in order to deal with crimes like sodomy, Viswanathan had suggested to the group of ministers that rape should be made gender-neutral, as recommended by the Law Commission of India in 2000.

Viswanathan, who later became Lok Sabha secretary-general, also said there are several other British-era laws that need to be revisited.

“There are many other sections in the Indian Penal Code that were there before the Constitution came into force. They also need to be looked into,” he added.


Also read: Sometimes homophobic, sometimes liberal: BJP’s uneven Section 377 journey 


 

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