A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously decriminalised part of the 158-year-old colonial law under Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises consensual unnatural sex, saying it violated the rights to equality.
The constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra termed the part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises consensual unnatural sex, irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary.
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The bench, which also comprised Justices R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, struck down Section 377 of the IPC as being violative of the right to equality and the right to live with dignity.
In four separate but concurring judgments, the top court set aside its 2013 verdict in the Suresh Kaushal case which had re-criminalised consensual unnatural sex.
The bench said the other aspects of Section 377 of the IPC dealing with unnatural sex with animals remain in force.
"Any kind of sexual activity with animals shall remain penal offence under Section 377 of the IPC," the bench said.
Here are the five petitioners who challenged the colonial era act:
Aman Nath: A founding member of Indian National Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Aman is the owner of the Neemrana chain of hotels. "What was first spotted in 1977 as a vast and splendid ruin of The Fort Palace of Neemrana has since become synonymous in India as a foremost example of architectural restoration-for-reuse," the website of the hotel chain claims. The history buff has been at the forefront of the battle for gay rights, and has several books on architecture and history to his name.
Navtej Singh Johar: A classical dancer and winner of the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, Navtej has become one of the faces of the movement to decriminalise gay sex. His co-petitioner in the case is his partner of over 25 years, Sunil Mehra.
Sunil Mehra: It was in 1994, according to The Indian Express, that journalist Sunil Mehra met Navtej Johar for a profile. According to the report, Mehra announced he could not write the story with the journalistic objectivity and the duo moved in together within six months. Sunil is a co-founder of the Yoga and the well-being centre Studio Abhyas.
Ritu Dalmia: Renowned restaurateur Ritu Dalmia is a co-owner of the Italian restaurant Diva. She has written a cookbook, won several awards and was at the forefront of the movement after the Supreme Court overturned a Delhi High Court order decriminalising gay sex.
Ayesha Kapur: The actress has several sobriquets to her credit. She is the youngest winner of a Filmfare Award. A student at the Columbia University, she has acted in the acclaimed Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, Black.