In a further setback to India’s LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual and Queer) community, the country’s Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to review an earlier verdict criminalizing gay sex.
The country’s highest court dismissed a slew of petitions filed by gay rights activists, including acclaimed filmmaker Shyam Benegal, against a Supreme Court ruling in December which overturned a decision by the Delhi High Court declaring that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code outlawing gay sex was unconstitutional.
In its ruling the Supreme Court had said that only the Indian parliament could decide to amend or repeal laws.
The decision, which theoretically opened the way for those engaging in gay sex to face life imprisonment, caused widespread anger in the country and even prompted a number of politicians to speak out in support of LGBT rights.
Legal experts however say that the Supreme Court is merely sticking to its remit whilst the government drags its feet in a bid to appease more conservative elements in the ruling Coalition government.
Supreme Court lawyer Harish Salve tweeted that the latest decision by the court was “unsurprising” and asked: “Why did the government, which felt so strongly, not change the law?”
Padma Bhushan and Dadasahed Phalke-winning filmmaker Benegal, speaking to the Times of India last week, said he had been “horrified” by the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“I am a great supporter of gay rights because I believe everybody has a place in the world. You cannot just criminalize people who have different sexual orientation. What have they done?”, Benegal queried.