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Thursday, December 12, 2013

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  Sec.377 of I.P.C. - constitutionally valid - Unnatural offences - Same sex marriage - Bombay high court declared the sec.377 as unconstitutional - Apex court set aside the orders of Bombay high court - and held that  sec.377 is a valid one - marriage between same sex is an offence under sec.377 still -  Notwithstanding this verdict, the competent legislature  shall  be  free  to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting  Section  377  IPC  from the statute book or amend the  same  as  per  the  suggestion  made  by  the Attorney General. = 

 These appeals are directed against order dated 2.7.2009 by  which  the
Division Bench of the Delhi High Court allowed the writ  petition  filed  by
NAZ  Foundation  –  respondent  No.1  herein,  by  way  of  Public  Interest
Litigation (PIL) challenging the constitutional validity of Section  377  of
the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) in the following terms:

      “We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it  criminalises  consensual
      sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14  and
      15 of the  Constitution.  The  provisions  of  Section  377  IPC  will
      continue to govern non-consensual penile non-vaginal  sex  and  penile
      non-vaginal sex involving minors. By 'adult' we mean everyone  who  is
      18 years of age and above. A person below 18 would be presumed not  to
      be able to consent to a sexual act. This clarification will hold till,
      of course, Parliament chooses to  amend  the  law  to  effectuate  the
      recommendation of the Law Commission of  India  in  its  172nd  Report
      which we believe removes a  great  deal  of  confusion.  Secondly,  we
      clarify that our  judgment  will  not  result  in  the  re-opening  of
      criminal cases involving Section 377 IPC that  have  already  attained
      finality.”  =

  “The family law in England has undergone a drastic change,  recognised
      new social  relationship  between  man  and  woman.  In  our  country,
      however, even today a marriage is an arranged affair. We  do  not  say
      that there are no exceptions to this practice  or  that  there  is  no
      tendency, however imperceptible, for young persons to choose their own
      spouses, but even in such cases the consent of their parents is one of
      the desiderata which is sought for. Whether  it  is  obtained  in  any
      given set  of  circumstances  is  another  matter.  In  such  arranged
      marriages in this country the question of two  persons  being  engaged
      for any appreciable time to enable each other to  meet  and  be  in  a
      position to exercise  undue  influence  on  one  another  very  rarely
      arises. Even in the case of the  marriage  in  the  instant  case,  an
      advertisement was resorted to by Bhim Sain. The person who purports to
      reply is Saraswati’s mother and the person who replied to her was Bhim
      Sain’s Personal Assistant. But the social considerations prevailing in
      this country and ethos even in such cases persist in  determining  the
      respective attitudes. That apart, as we said earlier, the negotiations
      for  marriage  held  in  Saraswati’s  sister’s  house  have  all   the
      appearance of a business  transaction.  In  these  circumstances  that
      portion of the statement of the law in Halsbury which  refers  to  the
      presumption of the exercise of undue influence in the case of a man to
      a woman to whom he is engaged to be married would hardly be applicable
      to conditions in this country. We have had occasion to point  out  the
      danger of such statements of law enunciated and propounded for meeting
      the conditions existing in the countries in which they are  applicable
      from being  blindly  followed  in  this  country  without  a  critical
      examination  of  those  principles  and  their  applicability  to  the
      conditions, social norms and attitudes existing in this country. Often
      statements of  law  applicable  to  foreign  countries  as  stated  in
      compilations and learned treatises are cited without making a critical
      examination of those principles in the background  of  the  conditions
      that existed or exist in those countries. If we are  not  wakeful  and
      circumspect, there is every likelihood of their being  simply  applied
      to cases requiring  our  adjudication  without  consideration  of  the
      background and various other conditions to which we have referred.  On
      several occasions merely because  courts  in  foreign  countries  have
      taken  a  different  view  than  that  taken  by  our  courts  or   in
      adjudicating on any particular matter  we  were  asked  to  reconsider
      those decisions or to consider them for the first time  and  to  adopt
      them as the law of this country.

        No doubt an objective and rational deduction of a principle, if  it
      emerges from a decision of foreign country, rendered on  pari  materia
      legislative provisions and which can be applicable to  the  conditions
      prevailing in this country will assist the  Court  in  arriving  at  a
      proper conclusion. While we should seek light from whatever source  we
      can get, we should however guard against being blinded by it.”

54.   In view of the above discussion, we hold that  Section  377  IPC  does
not suffer from the vice of unconstitutionality and the declaration made  by
the Division Bench of the High court is legally unsustainable.

55.   The appeals are accordingly allowed, the impugned order is  set  aside
and the writ petition filed by respondent No.1 is dismissed.

56.   While parting with the case, we would like to make it clear that  this
Court has merely pronounced on the correctness of  the  view  taken  by  the
Delhi High Court on the constitutionality of Section 377 IPC and found  that
the  said  section  does  not  suffer  from  any  constitutional  infirmity.

Notwithstanding this verdict, the competent legislature  shall  be  free  to
consider the desirability and propriety of deleting  Section  377  IPC  from
the statute book or amend the  same  as  per  the  suggestion  made  by  the
Attorney General.

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                       CIVIL APPEAL NO.10972  OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP (C) No.15436 of 2009)
Suresh Kumar Koushal and another                   ... Appellants
NAZ Foundation and others                          ... Respondents
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10974 OF 2013
       (Arising out of SLP(C) No.37703 of 2013 @ CC NO.13105 of 2009)

                       CIVIL APPEAL NO.10986  OF 2013
       (Arising out of SLP(C) No.37708 of 2013 @ CC NO.14042 of 2009)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10981 OF 2013
       (Arising out of SLP(C) No.37705 of 2013 @ CC NO.19478 of 2009)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10983 OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.20913 of 2009)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10984 OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.20914 of 2009)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10975 OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.22267 of 2009)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10973 OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.24334 of 2009)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10985 OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.25346 of 2009)

                       CIVIL APPEAL NO.10976  OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.34187 of 2009)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10980 OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.36216 of 2009)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10982 OF 2013
       (Arising out of S.L.P.(C) No.37706 of 2013 @ CC NO.425 of 2010)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10977 OF 2013
                   (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.286 of 2010)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10978 OF 2013
                   (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.872 of 2010)

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.10979 OF 2013
                   (Arising out of SLP(C) NO.873 of 2010)


1.    Leave granted.

2.    These appeals are directed against order dated 2.7.2009 by  which  the
Division Bench of the Delhi High Court allowed the writ  petition  filed  by
NAZ  Foundation  –  respondent  No.1  herein,  by  way  of  Public  Interest
Litigation (PIL) challenging the constitutional validity of Section  377  of
the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) in the following terms:

      “We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it  criminalises  consensual
      sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14  and
      15 of the  Constitution.  The  provisions  of  Section  377  IPC  will
      continue to govern non-consensual penile non-vaginal  sex  and  penile
      non-vaginal sex involving minors. By 'adult' we mean everyone  who  is
      18 years of age and above. A person below 18 would be presumed not  to
      be able to consent to a sexual act. This clarification will hold till,
      of course, Parliament chooses to  amend  the  law  to  effectuate  the
      recommendation of the Law Commission of  India  in  its  172nd  Report
      which we believe removes a  great  deal  of  confusion.  Secondly,  we
      clarify that our  judgment  will  not  result  in  the  re-opening  of
      criminal cases involving Section 377 IPC that  have  already  attained

3.    The Background facts:

(i)   Respondent No.1 is a Non-Governmental  Organisation  (NGO)  registered
under the Societies Registration Act, 1860  which  works  in  the  field  of
HIV/AIDS intervention and prevention.  Its work has  focussed  on  targeting
‘men who have sex with men’ (MSM) or homosexuals or gays in consonance  with
the integrationist policy. Alleging that  its  efforts  have  been  severely
impaired by the discriminatory  attitudes  exhibited  by  State  authorities
towards sexual minorities, MSM, lesbians  and  transgender  individuals  and
that unless self respect and dignity is restored to these sexual  minorities
by doing away with discriminatory laws such as Section 377 IPC it  will  not
be possible to prevent HIV/AIDS, NAZ Foundation filed  WP(C)  No.  7455/2001
before the Delhi High Court impleading  the  Government  of  NCT  of  Delhi;
Commissioner of Police, Delhi; Delhi State Aids  Control  Society;  National
Aids Control Organisation (NACO) and Union  of  India  through  Ministry  of
Home Affairs and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare  and prayed  for  grant
of a declaration that Section 377 IPC to the extent it is applicable to  and
penalises sexual acts in private between consenting adults is  violative  of
Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(a)-(d) and 21 of the  Constitution.  Respondent  No.1
further prayed for grant of a permanent  injunction  restraining  Government
of NCT of Delhi  and  Commissioner  of  Police,  Delhi  from  enforcing  the
provisions of Section 377 IPC in respect of sexual acts in  private  between
consenting adults.

(ii)  Respondent No.1 pleaded that the thrust  of  Section  377  IPC  is  to
penalise sexual acts which are “against  the  order  of  nature”;  that  the
provision  is  based  on  traditional  Judeo-Christian  moral  and   ethical
standards and is being used  to  legitimise  discrimination  against  sexual
minorities;  that  Section  377  IPC  does  not   enjoy   justification   in
contemporary Indian society  and  that  the  section’s  historic  and  moral
underpinning do not resonate with the historically  held  values  in  Indian
society concerning sexual  relations.  Respondent  No.1  relied  upon  172nd
Report of the Law Commission which had recommended deletion of  Section  377
and pleaded that notwithstanding the recent  prosecutorial  use  of  Section
377 IPC, the same is detrimental to people’s  lives  and  an  impediment  to
public health due to its direct impact on the  lives  of  homosexuals;  that
the section serves as a weapon for police abuse in the  form  of  detention,
questioning, extortion, harassment, forced sex, payment of hush money;  that
the section perpetuates negative and  discriminatory  beliefs  towards  same
sex relations and sexual minorities in general; and  that  as  a  result  of
that it drives gay men and MSM and sexual minorities  generally  underground
which cripples HIV/AIDS prevention methods. According  to  respondent  No.1,
Section  377  is  used  predominantly  against  homosexual  conduct  as   it
criminalises  activity  practiced  more  often  by  men  or  women  who  are
homosexually active. The evidence that  refutes  the  assumption  that  non-
procreative  sexual  acts  are  unnatural  includes   socio-scientific   and
anthropological evidence and also the natural presence of  homosexuality  in
society at large.

(iii) That private, consensual sexual  relations  are  protected  under  the
right to liberty under Article 21 under the privacy and  dignity  claim.  It
was further pleaded that Section 377 IPC is not a valid  law  because  there
exists no compelling  State  interest  to  justify  the  curtailment  of  an
important  fundamental  freedom;  that  Section  377  IPC  insofar   as   it
criminalises consensual, non-procreative sexual  relations  is  unreasonable
and arbitrary and therefore violative of Article 14.

(iv)  Another plea taken by respondent No.1 was that Section 377  creates  a
classification between “natural” (penile-vaginal) and  “unnatural”  (penile-
non-vaginal)  penetrative  sexual  acts.  The   legislative   objective   of
penalising unnatural acts has no  rational  nexus  with  the  classification
between natural (procreative) and unnatural  (non-procreative)  sexual  acts
and is thus violative of Article 14.

4.    By an order dated 2.9.2004, the  Division  Bench  of  the  High  Court
dismissed the writ petition  by  observing  that  no  cause  of  action  has
accrued to respondent No.1 and purely academic issues cannot be examined  by
the Court. The review petition filed by respondent No.1 was  also  dismissed
by the High Court vide order dated 3.11.2004.

5.    Respondent No.1 challenged both the  orders  in  SLP  (C)  Nos.  7217-
7218/2005, which were converted to Civil Appeal  No.  952/2006.  This  Court
allowed the appeal vide order dated 3.2.2006 and remitted the writ  petition
for fresh decision by the High Court.  The relevant portions of  that  order
are reproduced below:

      “The challenge in the writ petition before the High Court was  to  the
      constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
       The High Court, without examining  that  issue,  dismissed  the  writ
      petition by the impugned order observing that  there  is  no  case  of
      action in favour of the appellant as the petition cannot be  filed  to
      test the validity of the Legislation  and,  therefore,  it  cannot  be
      entertained to examine the academic challenge to the constitutionality
      of the provision.

      The learned Additional Solicitor General, if we may  say  so,  rightly
      submits that the matter requires examination and is not  of  a  nature
      which ought to have been dismissed on  the  ground  afore-stated.   We
      may, however, note that the appeal is  being  strenuously  opposed  by
      Respondent No.6. We are, however, not examining the  issue  on  merits
      but are of the view that the matter does require consideration and  is
      not of a nature which could have been dismissed on the  ground  afore-
      stated. In this view, we set aside the impugned judgment and order  of
      the High Court and remit Writ Petition (C) No.7455  of  2001  for  its
      fresh decision by the High Court.”

6.    NACO and the Health Ministry had filed  counter  in  the  form  of  an
affidavit of Shri M.L. Soni, Under Secretary to  the  Government  of  India,
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, National AIDS Control Organisation.  He
outlined the  strategy  adopted  by  NACO  for  prevention  and  control  of
HIV/AIDS in India which includes identification of high risk groups and  the
provision of necessary tools and  information  for  protection  and  medical
care. The deponent averred that National  Sentinel  Surveillance  Data  2005
estimated that HIV prevalence in “men who have sex with  men”  (MSM)  is  8%
while in general population it is lesser than 1%.   The  MSM  population  is
estimated at 25 lacs as of January 2006. Shri Soni  also  stated  that  NACO
has developed programmes for undertaking targeted  interventions  among  MSM
population and that for prevention of  HIV/AIDS  there  is  a  need  for  an
enabling environment where  people  indulging  in  risky  behaviour  may  be
encouraged not to conceal information so that they are provided with  access
to NACO services.

7.    On behalf of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of  India,  Shri
Venu Gopal, Director (Judicial) filed an affidavit and pleaded that  Section
377 does not suffer from any  constitutional  infirmity.   Shri  Venu  Gopal
further pleaded that an unlawful act cannot be rendered  legitimate  because
the person to whose detriment it acts consents to it; that Section  377  has
been applied only on complaint of a victim and there  are  no  instances  of
arbitrary use or application in situations where the terms  of  the  section
do not naturally extend to Section 377 IPC; that  Section  377  IPC  is  not
violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. According to Shri  Venu
Gopal, Section 377 IPC provides a punishment for unnatural sexual  offences,
carnal intercourse against the  order  of  nature  and  does  not  make  any
distinction between procreative and non-procreative sex.

8.    Joint Action Council Kannur and Shri B.P. Singhal,  who  were  allowed
to act as interveners, opposed the prayer made  in  the  writ  petition  and
supported the stand taken  by  the  Government.  Another  intervener,  i.e.,
Voices Against 377, supported the prayer of respondent  No.1  that   Section
377 should be struck down on the ground of unconstitutionality.

 9.   The Division Bench  of  the  High  Court  extensively  considered  the
contentions of the parties and declared that  Section  377,  insofar  as  it
criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in  private  is  violative  of
Articles 21, 14  and  15  of  the  Constitution.   While  dealing  with  the
question relating to violation of Article 21, the High  Court  outlined  the
enlarged scope of the right to life and liberty which  also  includes  right
to protection of one’s dignity, autonomy and  privacy,  the  Division  Bench
referred to Indian and foreign judgements, the literature and  international
understanding (Yogyakarta Principles) relating to sexuality  as  a  form  of
identity and the global trends in the  protection  of  privacy  and  dignity
rights of homosexuals and held:

      “The sphere of privacy  allows  persons  to  develop  human  relations
      without interference from the outside community or from the State. The
      exercise of autonomy enables an individual to attain fulfilment,  grow
      in self-esteem, build relationships of his or her  choice  and  fulfil
      all  legitimate  goals  that  he  or  she  may  set.  In  the   Indian
      Constitution, the right to live with dignity and the right of  privacy
      both are recognised as dimensions  of  Article  21.  Section  377  IPC
      denies a person's dignity and criminalises his or  her  core  identity
      solely on account of his or her sexuality and thus violates Article 21
      of the Constitution. As it stands, Section 377 IPC denies a gay person
      a right to full personhood which is implicit in notion of  life  under
      Article 21 of the Constitution.

      The criminalisation of homosexuality condemns in perpetuity a  sizable
      section of society and forces them to live their lives in  the  shadow
      of  harassment,  exploitation,  humiliation,   cruel   and   degrading
      treatment  at  the  hands  of  the  law  enforcement  machinery.   The
      Government of India estimates the MSM number at around  25  lacs.  The
      number of lesbians and transgender is said to be several lacs as well.
      This vast majority  (borrowing  the  language  of  the  South  African
      Constitutional Court) is denied “moral full citizenship”. Section  377
      IPC grossly violates their right to privacy and  liberty  embodied  in
      Article 21 insofar as it criminalises consensual sexual  acts  between
      adults in private. These fundamental rights had their  roots  deep  in
      the struggle for independence and, as pointed out by Granville  Austin
      in “The Indian Constitution – Cornerstone of  A  Nation”,  “they  were
      included in the Constitution in the hope and expectation that one  day
      the tree of true liberty would  bloom  in  India”.  In  the  words  of
      Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer these rights are cardinal to a decent  human
      order and protected by constitutional armour. The spirit of Man is  at
      the root of Article 21, absent liberty, other freedoms are frozen.

      A  number  of  documents,  affidavits  and  authoritative  reports  of
      independent agencies and even judgments of various  courts  have  been
      brought on record to demonstrate the widespread abuse of  Section  377
      IPC for brutalizing MSM and gay community persons,  some  of  them  of
      very recent vintage. If the penal clause is not being enforced against
      homosexuals engaged in consensual acts within privacy, it only implies
      that this provision is not deemed  essential  for  the  protection  of
      morals or  public  health  vis-a-vis  said  section  of  society.  The
      provision, from this perspective,  should  fail  the  “reasonableness”

10.   The High Court discussed  the  question  whether  morality  can  be  a
ground for imposing restriction  on  fundamental  rights,  referred  to  the
judgments in Gobind v. State of Madhya Pradesh  and  another  (1975)  2  SCC
148, Lawrence v. Texas 539 U.S. 558 (2003), Dudgeon v.  UK,  European  Court
of Human Rights Application No.7525/1976, Norris  v.  Republic  of  Ireland,
European Court of Human Rights  Application  No.  10581/1983,  The  National
Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v. The  Minister  of  Justice,  South
African Constitutional Court 1999 (1)  SA  6,  the  words  of  Dr.  Ambedkar
quoting Grotius while moving the Draft  Constitution,  Granville  Austin  in
his treatise “The Indian  Constitution  –  Cornerstone  of  A  Nation”,  the
Wolfenden Committee Report,  172nd  Law  Commission  of  India  Report,  the
address of the Solicitor  General  of  India  before  United  Nations  Human
Rights Council, the opinion of Justice Michael Kirby, former  Judge  of  the
Australian High Court and observed:

      “Thus popular morality or public disapproval of certain acts is not  a
      valid justification for restriction of the  fundamental  rights  under
      Article 21.  Popular  morality,  as  distinct  from  a  constitutional
      morality derived from constitutional values, is based on shifting  and
      subjecting notions of right  and  wrong.  If  there  is  any  type  of
      “morality” that can pass the test of  compelling  state  interest,  it
      must be “constitutional” morality and not public morality.

      The argument of the learned ASG that  public  morality  of  homosexual
      conduct might open floodgates of delinquent behaviour is  not  founded
      upon any substantive material,  even  from  such  jurisdictions  where
      sodomy laws have been abolished. Insofar as basis of this argument  is
      concerned, as pointed out by Wolfenden Committee, it is often no  more
      than  the  expression  of  revulsion  against  what  is  regarded   as
      unnatural, sinful or disgusting. Moral indignation, howsoever  strong,
      is not a valid basis for overriding individuals’ fundamental rights of
      dignity and privacy. In our scheme of things, constitutional  morality
      must outweigh the argument of public  morality,  even  if  it  be  the
      majoritarian view. In Indian context, the latest report (172nd) of Law
      Commission on the subject instead shows heightened  realization  about
      urgent need to follow global trends on the issue of  sexual  offences.
      In fact, the admitted case of Union of India that Section 377 IPC  has
      generally been used in cases of  sexual  abuse  or  child  abuse,  and
      conversely that it has hardly ever been used in  cases  of  consenting
      adults, shows that criminalization of adult same- sex conduct does not
      serve any  public  interest.  The  compelling  state  interest  rather
      demands  that  public  health  measures  are   strengthened   by   de-
      criminalization of such activity, so that they can be  identified  and
      better focused upon.

      For the above reasons we are unable to accept the stand of  the  Union
      of India that there is a need for retention  of  Section  377  IPC  to
      cover consensual sexual acts between adults in private on  the  ground
      of public morality.”

11.   The High Court then  considered  the  plea  of  respondent  No.1  that
Section 377 is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, referred to  the
tests  of  permissible  classification   as   also   the   requirements   of
reasonableness and non-arbitrariness as laid down by  this  Court  and  held
that the classification created  by  Section  377  IPC  does  not  bear  any
rational nexus to the objective sought to  be  achieved.   The  observations
made by the High Court on this issue are extracted below:

      “It is clear that Section 377  IPC,  whatever  its  present  pragmatic
      application, was not enacted keeping in mind instances of child sexual
      abuse or to fill the  lacuna  in  a  rape  law.  It  was  based  on  a
      conception of sexual morality specific to  Victorian  era  drawing  on
      notions of carnality and  sinfulness.  In  any  way,  the  legislative
      object of protecting women and children has no bearing  in  regard  to
      consensual  sexual  acts  between  adults  in  private.   The   second
      legislative purpose elucidated is that  Section  377  IPC  serves  the
      cause of public health by criminalizing the homosexual  behaviour.  As
      already held,  this  purported  legislative  purpose  is  in  complete
      contrast to the averments in NACO's affidavit. NACO  has  specifically
      stated that enforcement of Section 377 IPC  adversely  contributes  to
      pushing the infliction underground, make  risky  sexual  practices  go
      unnoticed and unaddressed.  Section  377  IPC  thus  hampers  HIV/AIDS
      prevention efforts. Lastly, as held earlier,  it  is  not  within  the
      constitutional competence of  the  State  to  invade  the  privacy  of
      citizen’s lives or regulate conduct to  which  the  citizen  alone  is
      concerned solely on the basis of public morals. The criminalization of
      private sexual relations between consenting adults absent any evidence
      of serious harm deems the provision's  objective  both  arbitrary  and
      unreasonable. The state interest “must be legitimate and relevant” for
      the legislation to be non-arbitrary and must be proportionate  towards
      achieving the state interest. If the objective is  irrational,  unjust
      and unfair,  necessarily  classification  will  have  to  be  held  as
      unreasonable. The nature of the provision of Section 377 IPC  and  its
      purpose is to criminalise private conduct of consenting  adults  which
      causes no harm to anyone  else.  It  has  no  other  purpose  than  to
      criminalise conduct which fails to conform with the moral or religious
      views of a section of society. The discrimination severely affects the
      rights and interests of homosexuals and deeply impairs their dignity.”

12.   The High Court took note of the Declaration of Principles of  Equality
issued by the Equal  Rights  Trust  in  April,  2008.  It  referred  to  the
judgments in The National Coalition for Gay  and  Lesbian  Equality  v.  The
Minister of Justice, Lawrence v. Texas, Romer v  Evans,  Vriend  v.  Alberta
and held:

      “Section 377 IPC is facially neutral and  it  apparently  targets  not
      identities but acts, but in its operation  it  does  end  up  unfairly
      targeting a particular community. The fact is that these  sexual  acts
      which are criminalised are associated more closely with one  class  of
      persons, namely, the homosexuals as a class. Section 377 IPC  has  the
      effect of viewing all gay men as criminals. When everything associated
      with homosexuality is treated as bent, queer, repugnant, the whole gay
      and lesbian community is marked with deviance and perversity. They are
      subject to extensive prejudice because what they are or what they  are
      perceived to be, not because of what they do. The  result  is  that  a
      significant  group  of  the  population  is,  because  of  its  sexual
      nonconformity, persecuted,  marginalised  and  turned  in  on  itself.
      [Sachs, J. in The National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian  Equality  v.
      The Minister of Justice, para 108].

13.   The High  Court  also  discussed  the  case  of  Anuj  Garg  v.  Hotel
Association of India in detail and  made  reference  to  the  principles  of
strict  scrutiny  and  proportionality   review   as   borrowed   from   the
jurisprudence of the US Supreme Court, the Canadian and European Courts  and
proceeded to observe:

      “On a harmonious construction of the two judgments, the Supreme  Court
      must be interpreted to have laid down that the  principle  of  'strict
      scrutiny' would not apply to affirmative action  under  Article  15(5)
      but a measure that disadvantages a vulnerable  group  defined  on  the
      basis of a characteristic that relates to personal  autonomy  must  be
      subject to strict scrutiny.

      Thus personal autonomy is inherent in the grounds mentioned in Article
      15. The grounds that are not specified in Article 15 but are analogous
      to those specified therein, will be those which have the potential  to
      impair the personal autonomy of an individual. This view  was  earlier
      indicated in Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, (1992) Supp. 3 SCC 217….

      As held in Anuj Garg, if a law discriminates on any of the  prohibited
      grounds, it needs to be tested  not  merely  against  “reasonableness”
      under Article 14 but be subject to  “strict  scrutiny”.  The  impugned
      provision  in  Section  377  IPC  criminalises  the  acts  of   sexual
      minorities particularly men who have sex with  men  and  gay  men.  It
      disproportionately impacts them solely on the basis  of  their  sexual
      orientation. The provision runs counter to the  constitutional  values
      and the notion  of  human  dignity  which  is  considered  to  be  the
      cornerstone of our Constitution. Section 377 IPC in its application to
      sexual acts of consenting adults in privacy discriminates a section of
      people solely on the ground  of  their  sexual  orientation  which  is
      analogous to prohibited ground of sex. A provision of law branding one
      section of people as  criminal  based  wholly  on  the  State’s  moral
      disapproval of that class goes  counter  to  the  equality  guaranteed
      under Articles 14 and 15 under any standard of review.

      A constitutional provision must be construed,  not  in  a  narrow  and
      constricted sense,  but  in  a  wide  and  liberal  manner  so  as  to
      anticipate and take account of changing  conditions  and  purposes  so
      that the constitutional provision does not get atrophied or fossilized
      but remains flexible enough  to  meet  the  newly  emerging  problems.
      [Francis Coralie Mullin v. Union Territory of Delhi (1981) 1 SCC  608,
      Para 6 of SCC].”

14.   Finally, the High Court elaborated  upon  the  scope  of  the  Court’s
power to declare a statutory provision invalid, referred  to  the  judgments
in State  of  Madras  v.  V.G.  Row,  R.  (Alconbury  Ltd.)  v.  Environment
Secretary, [2001] 2 WLR 1389, West Virginia  State  Board  of  Education  v.
Barnette, 319 US 624 (1943), I.R. Coelho (Dead) by LRs  v.  State  of  Tamil
Nadu & Ors., (2007) 2 SCC 1 and Raja Ram Pal v. Hon'ble Speaker,  Lok  Sabha
& Ors., (2007) 3 SCC 184, Peerless General Finance Investment  Co.  Ltd.  v.
Reserve Bank of India, (1992) 2 SCC 343 and held:

      “It is true that the courts should ordinarily defer to the  wisdom  of
      the legislature while exercising  the  power  of  judicial  review  of
      legislation. But it  is  equally  well  settled  that  the  degree  of
      deference to be given to the legislature is dependent on  the  subject
      matter under  consideration.  When  matters  of  “high  constitutional
      importance” such as constitutionally entrenched  human  rights  –  are
      under consideration, the courts are obliged in discharging  their  own
      sovereign jurisdiction, to give considerably  less  deference  to  the
      legislature than would otherwise be the case.

      In the present case, the two constitutional rights  relied  upon  i.e.
      'right to personal liberty' and 'right to  equality'  are  fundamental
      human rights which belong to individuals simply  by  virtue  of  their
      humanity, independent of any  utilitarian  consideration.  A  Bill  of
      Rights does not 'confer' fundamental human rights. It  confirms  their
      existence and accords them protection.

      After the conclusion of oral hearing, learned ASG  filed  his  written
      submissions in which he claimed that the courts have only to interpret
      the law as it is and  have  no  power  to  declare  the  law  invalid.
      According to him, therefore, if we were to agree with the  petitioner,
      we could  only  make  recommendation  to  Parliament  and  it  is  for
      Parliament to amend the law. We are constrained to  observe  that  the
      submission of learned ASG reflects rather poorly on his  understanding
      of the constitutional scheme. It is a  fundamental  principle  of  our
      constitutional scheme that every organ of the State,  every  authority
      under the Constitution  derives  its  power  or  authority  under  the
      Constitution and has to act within the limits of powers. The judiciary
      is constituted as the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution and  to
      it is assigned the delicate task of determining what is the extent and
      scope of the power conferred on each branch of  government,  what  are
      the limits on the exercise of such power under  the  Constitution  and
      whether any action of any branch transgresses such limits. The role of
      the judiciary is to protect the fundamental rights. A modern democracy
      while based on the principle of majority  rule  implicitly  recognizes
      the need to protect the fundamental rights of those who may dissent or
      deviate from the majoritarian view. It is the job of the judiciary  to
      balance the principles ensuring that the government on  the  basis  of
      number does not override fundamental rights. After the enunciation  of
      the basic structure doctrine, full judicial review is an integral part
      of the constitutional scheme. To quote the words of Krishna  Iyer,  J.
      “... The compulsion of constitutional humanism and the  assumption  of
      full faith in life and liberty cannot be so futile or fragmentary that
      any transient legislative majority in tantrums against any minority by
      three quick  readings  of  a  Bill  with  the  requisite  quorum,  can
      prescribe  any  unreasonable  modality  and  thereby   sterilise   the
      grandiloquent mandate.”

15.   The order of the High Court has been challenged  by  large  number  of
organizations and individuals including  Joint  Action  Council  Kannur  and
Shri B.P. Singhal, who were interveners before the High  Court.  During  the
pendency  of  the  special   leave   petitions   several   individuals   and
organisations filed IAs for  permission  to  intervene.  All  the  IAs  were
allowed vide order dated 7.2.2011 and the applicants were permitted  to  act
as interveners. The details of  the  parties  and  interveners  before  this
Court are as under:

|Case Number|Name       |Description |Details                    |
|           |           |before the  |                           |
|           |           |Court       |                           |
|SLP (C) No.|Suresh     |Petitioners |Petitioners are citizens of|
|15436/2009 |Kumar      |(Not parties|India who believe they have|
|(CC No.    |Koushal &  |before the  |the moral responsibility   |
|9255/2009) |Anr.       |High Court) |and duty in protecting     |
|           |           |            |cultural values of Indian  |
|           |           |            |society.                   |
|           |Samajik    |Intervener –|The applicant is a         |
|           |Ekta Party |IA No.      |political party registered |
|           |           |4/2009      |by the Election Commission |
|           |           |            |of India under Sec 29A,    |
|           |           |            |Representation of People   |
|           |           |            |Act, 1951 vide order dt.   |
|           |           |            |20.4.1995. It is interested|
|           |           |            |in the welfare of the      |
|           |           |            |citizens, their rights,    |
|           |           |            |functioning of the State   |
|           |           |            |and interest of public at  |
|           |           |            |large.                     |
|           |Mr. Shyam  |Intervener –|The applicant is a film    |
|           |Benegal    |IA No.      |maker and a citizen. He    |
|           |           |6/2009      |seeks impleadment in the   |
|           |           |            |SLP in light of the fact   |
|           |           |            |that due to the            |
|           |           |            |misunderstanding and       |
|           |           |            |confusion of thought with  |
|           |           |            |regard to homosexuality,   |
|           |           |            |all points of view must be |
|           |           |            |projected before this      |
|           |           |            |Hon’ble Court.             |
|           |Trust God  |Interveners |The applicant is a         |
|           |Missionarie|– IA No.    |registered charitable trust|
|           |s          |7/2010      |having the main aim to     |
|           |           |            |preserve and protect life  |
|           |           |            |for humanity and earth and |
|           |           |            |takes support from human   |
|           |           |            |rights, social and         |
|           |           |            |religious organisations,   |
|           |           |            |such as CBCI, NCCI and     |
|           |           |            |KCBC, etc. The applicant   |
|           |           |            |claims to be vitally       |
|           |           |            |interested in the outcome  |
|           |           |            |of the appeal and is an    |
|           |           |            |affected party.            |
|           |Minna Saran|Interveners |The applicants are parents |
|           |& Others   |– IA No.    |of lesbian, gay, bisexual  |
|           |(Parents of|8/2010      |and transgender persons    |
|           |LGBT       |            |from different             |
|           |Children)  |            |professional,              |
|           |           |            |socio-cultural backgrounds |
|           |           |            |and different regions of   |
|           |           |            |India. They have a direct  |
|           |           |            |and immediate stake in the |
|           |           |            |proceedings and are        |
|           |           |            |necessary and proper       |
|           |           |            |parties. No prejudice will |
|           |           |            |be caused to the           |
|           |           |            |petitioners if the         |
|           |           |            |applicants are impleaded   |
|           |           |            |but the applicants will    |
|           |           |            |sufferer irreparable harm  |
|           |           |            |and damage as              |
|           |           |            |criminalisation not only   |
|           |           |            |affects the LGBT persons   |
|           |           |            |but also their families.   |
|           |           |            |Their struggles of having  |
|           |           |            |to understand sexuality at |
|           |           |            |odds with Section 377 IPC  |
|           |           |            |have resulted in accepting |
|           |           |            |their children’s sexuality |
|           |           |            |and they are acutely aware |
|           |           |            |of the social stigma       |
|           |           |            |prejudice, myths and       |
|           |           |            |stereotypes that surround  |
|           |           |            |the subject of             |
|           |           |            |homosexuality in India.    |
|           |Dr. Shekhar|Interveners |The Applicants are mental  |
|           |Seshadri & |- IA No.    |health professionals who   |
|           |Others     |9/2010      |have been practising as    |
|           |(Professor |            |psychiatrists, clinical    |
|           |of         |            |psychologists and          |
|           |Psychiatry |            |behavioral psychologists in|
|           |at the     |            |the field of mental health |
|           |National   |            |in reputed medical         |
|           |Institute  |            |institutions throughout    |
|           |of Mental  |            |India. They claim to have  |
|           |Health and |            |had considerable expertise |
|           |Neuro      |            |in addressing the mental   |
|           |Sciences,  |            |health concerns of Lesbian,|
|           |Bangalore) |            |Gay, Bisexual and          |
|           |           |            |Transgender persons. The   |
|           |           |            |Applicants submit that     |
|           |           |            |sexual orientation is an   |
|           |           |            |immutable characteristic   |
|           |           |            |and is present at birth.   |
|           |Nivedita   |Interveners |The Applicants are         |
|           |Menon &    |- I.A. No.  |academicians who wish to   |
|           |Others     |10/2010     |contribute to the debate on|
|           |(Professor |            |the issues raised by the   |
|           |in         |            |judgment and to draw       |
|           |Political  |            |attention to the mental    |
|           |Thought,   |            |distress caused to the LGBT|
|           |Jawaharlal |            |community.                 |
|           |Nehru      |            |                           |
|           |University)|            |                           |
|           |Ratna Kapur|Interveners |The applicants are law     |
|           |& Ors.     |– IA No.    |professors, teachers and   |
|           |           |13/2011     |research associates with   |
|           |           |            |Jindal Global Law School   |
|           |           |            |working in different fields|
|           |           |            |of law such as             |
|           |           |            |jurisprudence, human       |
|           |           |            |rights, sexuality studies  |
|           |           |            |and law, criminal justice, |
|           |           |            |and cultural studies and   |
|           |           |            |law, and feminist legal    |
|           |           |            |theory. They are concerned |
|           |           |            |with the correct           |
|           |           |            |interpretation of statutes |
|           |           |            |and the constitutional     |
|           |           |            |validity of Section 377    |
|           |           |            |IPC.                       |
|SLP (C) No.|Delhi      |Petitioner  |The petitioner has been    |
|24334/2009 |Commission |(Not parties|constituted under the      |
|           |for        |before the  |Commissions for Protection |
|           |Protection |High Court) |of Child Rights Act, 2005  |
|           |of Child   |            |read with GoI MHA          |
|           |Rights     |            |notification dt. 15.1.2008.|
|           |           |            |Under Sec 13(1j) the       |
|           |           |            |Commission is empowered to |
|           |           |            |take suo moto notice of    |
|           |           |            |deprivation and violation  |
|           |           |            |of child rights, non       |
|           |           |            |implementation of laws     |
|           |           |            |providing for protection   |
|           |           |            |and development of         |
|           |           |            |children, and non          |
|           |           |            |compliance of policy       |
|           |           |            |decisions, guidelines or   |
|           |           |            |instructions aimed at      |
|           |           |            |mitigating hardship and    |
|           |           |            |ensuring welfare of        |
|           |           |            |children and providing     |
|           |           |            |relief. Its functions      |
|           |           |            |include: study and monitor |
|           |           |            |matters relating to        |
|           |           |            |constitutional and legal   |
|           |           |            |rights of children; examine|
|           |           |            |and review safeguards for  |
|           |           |            |protection of child rights |
|           |           |            |and effective              |
|           |           |            |implementation of the same;|
|           |           |            |review existing law and    |
|           |           |            |recommend amendments; look |
|           |           |            |into complaints of taking  |
|           |           |            |suo moto action in cases   |
|           |           |            |involving violation of     |
|           |           |            |child rights; monitor      |
|           |           |            |implementation of laws;    |
|           |           |            |present reports to the     |
|           |           |            |Central Government. It is  |
|           |           |            |the moral duty of the      |
|           |           |            |Commission to protect the  |
|           |           |            |best interest of children  |
|           |           |            |and provide them with an   |
|           |           |            |atmosphere where the       |
|           |           |            |freedom and dignity of all |
|           |           |            |children is safe and a     |
|           |           |            |child may bloom without any|
|           |           |            |fear of abuse, exploitation|
|           |           |            |and deprivation.           |
|CC No.     |Ram Murti  |Petitioner  |He is a citizen of India   |
|13105/2009 |           |(not party  |and has a duty to report if|
|           |           |before the  |something illegal is       |
|           |           |High Court  |happening.                 |
|SLP (C) No.|B.P.       |Petitioner  |                           |
|22267/2009 |Singhal    |(Respondent |                           |
|           |           |7 –         |                           |
|           |           |Intervener  |                           |
|           |           |before the  |                           |
|           |           |High Court) |                           |
|SLP (C) No.|B. Krishna |Petitioner  |The petitioner is a citizen|
|34187/2009 |Bhat       |(not a party|of India and a public      |
|           |           |before the  |spirited individual, social|
|           |           |High Court) |worker and environmentalist|
|           |           |            |who believes in the Rule of|
|           |           |            |Law and has successfully   |
|           |           |            |prosecuted a number of PILs|
|           |           |            |in Karnataka High Court,   |
|           |           |            |other High Courts and the  |
|           |           |            |Supreme Court on issues of |
|           |           |            |protection of green belt,  |
|           |           |            |illegal extraction of      |
|           |           |            |monies from citizens of    |
|           |           |            |Bangalore, property taxes, |
|           |           |            |illegal mining, stray dog  |
|           |           |            |menace, development of     |
|           |           |            |tanks, shifting of         |
|           |           |            |slaughter house, caste     |
|           |           |            |based reservation, etc.    |
|SLP (C) No.|Joint      |Petitioner  |                           |
|286/2010   |Action     |(respondent |                           |
|           |Council,   |6 –         |                           |
|           |Kannur     |Intervener  |                           |
|           |           |before the  |                           |
|           |           |High Court) |                           |
|SLP (C) No.|The Tamil  |Petitioner  |The petitioner is a        |
|872/2010   |Nadu Muslim|(not a party|registered trust working   |
|           |Munnetra   |before the  |for the betterment of the  |
|           |Kazhagam   |High Court) |poor and downtrodden in    |
|           |           |            |general and for those      |
|           |           |            |belonging to the minority  |
|           |           |            |Muslim community in        |
|           |           |            |particular. It is a mass   |
|           |           |            |based voluntary            |
|           |           |            |organisation of Muslims of |
|           |           |            |Tamil Nadu functioning     |
|           |           |            |since 1955 in Tamil Nadu.  |
|           |           |            |The president appeared     |
|           |           |            |before the UN Minority     |
|           |           |            |Rights Working Group and   |
|           |           |            |the organisation has set up|
|           |           |            |a Tsunami Relief Fund of Rs|
|           |           |            |7 million. It has worked   |
|           |           |            |against spread of AIDS and |
|           |           |            |has worked in blood        |
|           |           |            |donation and has been given|
|           |           |            |two awards by the Tamil    |
|           |           |            |Nadu State AIDS Control    |
|           |           |            |Board.                     |
|SLP (C) No.|Raza       |Petitioner  |The petitioner is an       |
|873/2010   |Academy    |(not a party|organisation working for   |
|           |           |before the  |welfare of the general     |
|           |           |High Court) |public and it has done     |
|           |           |            |tremendous work in public  |
|           |           |            |interest.                  |
|SLP (C) No.|Krantikati |Petitioner  |Krantikari Manuwadi Morcha |
|36216/200  |Manuvadi   |(not a party|(Revolutionary Manuist     |
|           |Morcha     |before the  |Front), is a Hindutva      |
|           |Party &    |High Court) |political organisation in  |
|           |Anr.       |            |India. It is one of the    |
|           |           |            |registered unrecognized    |
|           |           |            |political parties in India.|
|           |           |            |The president of KMM is Ram|
|           |           |            |Kumar Bhardwaj, grandson of|
|           |           |            |freedom fighter Rudra Dutt |
|           |           |            |Bhardwaj.                  |
|CC No.     |Utkal      |Petitioner  |Note: There is no          |
|19478/2009 |Christian  |(not a party|information on the         |
|           |Council    |before the  |petitioner in the SLP.     |
|           |rep. by    |High Court) |                           |
|           |Secretary  |            |                           |
|           |Miss       |            |                           |
|           |Jyotsna    |            |                           |
|           |Rani Patro |            |                           |
|CC No.     |All India  |Petitioner  |The petitioner is a        |
|425/2010   |Muslim     |(not a party|registered society         |
|           |Personal   |before the  |established to protect and |
|           |Law Board  |High Court) |preserve Muslim Personal   |
|           |           |            |Laws. It strives to uphold |
|           |           |            |the traditional values and |
|           |           |            |ethos of the Muslim        |
|           |           |            |community and promotes     |
|           |           |            |essential values of Islam  |
|           |           |            |and also a national ethos  |
|           |           |            |among Muslims. The members |
|           |           |            |of the society are         |
|           |           |            |religious scholars         |
|           |           |            |(ulemas), Muslim           |
|           |           |            |intellectuals and          |
|           |           |            |professionals from         |
|           |           |            |different disciplines.     |
|SLP (C) No.|Sh. S.K.   |Petitioner  |Petitioner is spokesperson |
|20913/2009 |Tijarawala |(not a party|of Yoga Guru Swami Ramdev  |
|           |           |before the  |Ji is running a social     |
|           |           |High Court) |welfare trust in the name  |
|           |           |            |of “Bharat Swabhiman”      |
|           |           |            |Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust.  |
|           |           |            |Petitioner is an eminent   |
|           |           |            |social worker and writer   |
|           |           |            |interested in protecting   |
|           |           |            |cultural values of the     |
|           |           |            |Indian society.            |
|SLP (C) No.|Apostolic  |Petitioner  |With a desire to promote   |
|20914/2009 |Churches   |(not a party|unity, build relationships,|
|           |Alliance   |before the  |and see increased          |
|           |rep. by its|High Court) |cooperation amongst        |
|           |bishop Sam |            |Churches, a few pastors    |
|           |T. Varghese|            |from growing independent   |
|           |           |            |churches in Kerala have    |
|           |           |            |come together and formed a |
|           |           |            |body called the “Apostolic |
|           |           |            |Churches Alliance” (ACA).  |
|           |           |            |The Alliance has been      |
|           |           |            |formed with the primary    |
|           |           |            |purpose of addressing      |
|           |           |            |spiritual, legal or any    |
|           |           |            |other kind of issue which  |
|           |           |            |may be relevant to the     |
|           |           |            |Churches at any given time |
|           |           |            |or place. The ACA is a     |
|           |           |            |registered body with nine  |
|           |           |            |Pastors as members of the  |
|           |           |            |Core Group and is in its   |
|           |           |            |early stages of growth.    |
|           |           |            |Pastor Sam T. Varghese of  |
|           |           |            |Life Fellowship,           |
|           |           |            |Trivandrum, serves as its  |
|           |           |            |General Overseer.          |
|SLP (C) No.|Prof. Bhim |Petitioner  |                           |
|25364/2009 |Singh      |(not a party|                           |
|           |           |before the  |                           |
|           |           |High Court) |                           |
|CC No.     |Sanatan    |Petitioner  |                           |
|14042/2009 |Dharam     |(not a party|                           |
|           |Pritinidhi |before the  |                           |
|           |Sabha Delhi|High Court) |                           |
|           |(Registered|            |                           |
|           |)          |            |                           |


16.1  Shri Amrendra Sharan, Senior Advocate appearing for the  appellant  in
Civil Appeal arising out of SLP(C)  No.24334/2009  –  Delhi  Commission  for
Protection of Child Rights led arguments on behalf of those who have  prayed
for setting aside the impugned order.  He was supported  by  Shri  V.  Giri,
Senior Advocate  appearing  for  Apostolic  Churches  Alliance  [SLP(C)  No.
20914/2009] and Utkal Christian  Council  [SLP(C)  No.19478/2009],  Shri  K.
Radhakrishnan,  Senior  Advocate  appearing  for  intervener  –  Trust   God
Missionaries, and S/Shri Sushil Kumar Jain,  counsel  for  the  appellant  -
Kranthikari Manuvadi Morcha  Party  (SLP(C)  No.36216/2009),  Huzefa  Ahmadi
appearing for All India Muslim Personal Law Board (SLP(C)  No.  CC425/2010),
Purshottaman Mulloli appearing in person for Joint  Action  Council,  Kannur
(SLP (C) No.286/2010), Ajay  Kumar  for  the  appellant  –  S.K.  Tijarawala
(SLP(C) No.20913/2009), Praveen Agrawal, counsel for the  appellant  –Suresh
Kumar Koushal (SLP(C) No.15436/2009, H.P. Sharma, counsel for the  appellant
– B.P. Singhal (SLP(C) No.22267/2009), K.C. Dua,  counsel  for  appellant  –
S.D. Pritinidhi Sabha Delhi (SLP(C) No.CC 14042/2009), P.V.  Yogeswaran  for
appellant – Bhim Singh (SLP(C) No.25346/2009), Lakshmi Raman Singh,  counsel
for appellant – Tamil Nadu Muslim Munn. Kazhgam and Mushtaq  Ahmad,  counsel
for appellant - Raza Academy (SLP(C) No.873/2010).   Shri  Amarendra  Sharan
made the following arguments:

16.2  That the High Court committed serious error by declaring  Section  377
IPC as violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the  Constitution  insofar  as
it criminalises consensual sexual  acts  of  adults  in  private  completely
ignoring that the writ petition filed by respondent  no.1  did  not  contain
foundational facts necessary for pronouncing  upon  constitutionality  of  a
statutory provision.  Learned counsel extensively referred to the  averments
contained in the writ petition to show that respondent no.1 had  not  placed
any tangible material before the High Court to show  that  Section  377  had
been used for prosecution of homosexuals as a class and that few  affidavits
and unverified reports of some NGOs relied upon  by  respondent  no.1  could
not supply basis  for  recording  a  finding  that  homosexuals  were  being
singled out for a discriminatory treatment.

16.3  The statistics incorporated in the affidavit filed on behalf  of  NACO
were wholly insufficient for  recording  a  finding  that  Section  377  IPC
adversely affected control of HIV/AIDS amongst the homosexual community  and
that decriminalization will reduce the number of such cases.

16.4  The High Court is not at all right in observing that Section  377  IPC
obstructs personality development of  homosexuals  or  affects  their  self-
esteem because that observation is solely based on the reports  prepared  by
the academicians and such reports could not be relied upon for  grant  of  a
declaration that the section impugned in the writ petition was violative  of
Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.   In  support  of  these  arguments,
learned  counsel  relied  upon  the  judgments  in  Southern   Petrochemical
Industries  v.  Electricity  Inspector  (2007)  5  SCC   447,   Tamil   Nadu
Electricity Board v. Status Spinning Mills (2008) 7 SCC 353 and  Seema  Silk
and Sarees v. Directorate of Enforcement (2008) 5 SCC 580.

16.5  That Section 377 IPC is gender neutral and covers  voluntary  acts  of
carnal intercourse against the order of nature irrespective  of  the  gender
of the persons committing the  act.   They  pointed  out  that  the  section
impugned in the writ  petition  includes  the  acts  of  carnal  intercourse
between man and man, man and woman and woman and woman  and  submitted  that
no Constitutional right vests in a person to indulge in  an  activity  which
has the propensity to cause harm and any  act  which  has  the  capacity  to
cause harm to  others  cannot  be  validated.   They  emphasized  that  anal
intercourse between two homosexuals is a high risk activity,  which  exposes
both the participating homosexuals to the risk of HIV/AIDS and this  becomes
even grave in case  of  a  male  bisexual  having  intercourse  with  female
partner who may not even be aware of the activity of her partner and is  yet
exposed to high risk of HIV/AIDS.  They argued that  Section  377  IPC  does
not violate the right to privacy and dignity guaranteed under Article 21  of
the Constitution.

16.6  That the impugned order  does  not  discuss  the  concept  of  “carnal
intercourse against the order of nature” and does not  adequately  show  how
the section violates the right  to  privacy  and  that  also  the  right  to
privacy can be curtailed by following due process of law  and  the  Code  of
Criminal Procedure prescribes a fair procedure,  which  is  required  to  be
followed before any person charged of committing an  offence  under  Section
377 IPC can be punished.  The right to privacy does not  include  the  right
to commit any offence  as  defined  under  Section  377  IPC  or  any  other

16.7  That the legislature has treated carnal intercourse against the  order
of nature as an offence and  the  High  Court  has  not  given  reasons  for
reading down the section. The presumption  of  constitutionality  is  strong
and the right claimed should have been directly  violated  by  the  statute.
Indirect  violation  is  not  sufficient  for  declaring  Section  377   IPC
violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.

16.8  That Article 21 provides  that  the  right  to  life  and  liberty  is
subject to procedure prescribed by law.  He referred  to  the  judgments  of
this Court in A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras 1950 SCR 88, R.C.  Cooper   v.
Union of India (1970) 1 SCC 248, Maneka Gandhi v. Union of  India  (1978)  1
SCC  248 and submitted that Gopalan’s case has not been overruled by  Maneka
Gandhi’s case.

16.9  That the term used in Section 375 IPC, which defines rape  is  ‘sexual
intercourse’,  whereas  in  Section  377  IPC  the  expression  is   ‘carnal
intercourse’.  In Khanu v. Emperor AIR 1925 (Sind),  it was  held  that  the
metaphor  ‘intercourse’  refers  to  sexual  relations  between  persons  of
different sexes where the ‘visiting member’  has  to  be  enveloped  by  the
recipient  organization  and   submitted   that   carnal   intercourse   was
criminalized because such acts have the tendency to lead to unmanliness  and
lead to persons not being useful in society.

16.10 Relying upon the dictionary meanings of the  words  ‘penetration’  and
‘carnal’, Shri Sharan submitted that any insertion into the  body  with  the
aim of satisfying unnatural lust would constitute carnal intercourse.

16.11       Assailing the finding of the High Court  that  Section  377  IPC
violates Article 14, Shri Sharan submitted that the section does not  create
a clause and applies to both  man  and  woman  if  they  indulge  in  carnal
intercourse against the order of  nature.   Learned  senior  counsel  argued
that if the view expressed by  the  High  Court  is  taken  to  its  logical
conclusion, any provision could be declared to be violative of  Article  14.
Shri Sharan further argued that no class was targeted  by  Section  377  IPC
and no classification had been made and, therefore, the finding of the  High
Court that  this  law  offended  Article  14  as  it  targets  a  particular
community known as homosexuals or gays is without any basis.

16.12       Shri K. Radhakrishnan,  learned  senior  counsel  appearing  for
intervener in I.A. No.7 – Trust God Missionaries  argued  that  Section  377
IPC was enacted by the legislature to protect social values and morals.   He
referred to Black’s Law Dictionary to show that ‘order of nature’  has  been
defined as something pure, as distinguished from artificial  and  contrived.
He argued that the basic feature of nature involved organs,  each  of  which
had an appropriate place. Every organ in the human  body  has  a  designated
function assigned by nature. The organs work in tandem and are not  expected
to be abused. If it is abused, it goes against nature. The  code  of  nature
is inviolable. Sex and food are regulated in society. What  is  pre-ordained
by nature has to be protected, and man  has  an  obligation  to  nature.  He
quoted a Sanskrit phrase which translated to “you are dust and  go  back  to
dust”.  Learned  senior  counsel  concluded  by  emphasising  that  if   the
declaration made  by  the  High  Court  is  approved,  then  India’s  social
structure and the institution of marriage  will  be  detrimentally  affected
and young persons will be tempted towards homosexual activities.

16.13       Shri V. Giri, learned senior counsel  argued  that  Section  377
IPC does not classify people into groups but it only describes  an  offence.
He submitted that the High Court  made  two  wrong  assumptions:  one,  that
sexual orientation is immutable and two,  that  sexual  orientation  can  be
naturally demonstrated only in a way as contemplated  in  Section  377  IPC.
Learned senior counsel submitted that what has been criminalized by  Section
377 IPC is just the  act,  independent  of  the  sex  of  people  or  sexual
orientation.  Shri Giri further submitted that sufficient  evidence  is  not
available to  support   the  statement  that  Section  377  IPC  helps  with
HIV/AIDS prevention. He referred to the scientific study  conducted  by  the
National Institute of Health on behavioral patterns  and  AIDS  which  shows
that HIV/AIDS is higher among MSM.  Learned counsel submitted that same  sex
is more harmful to public health than opposite sex.

16.14        Shri  Huzefa  Ahmadi  submitted  that  the  right   to   sexual
orientation can always be restricted  on  the  principles  of  morality  and
health. He referred to the constitutional assembly debates on Article 15  to
show that the inclusion of sexual orientation in  the  term  ‘sex’  was  not
contemplated by the founding fathers.  Shri  Ahmadi  also  referred  to  the
dissenting opinion given by Justice Scalia and Justice  Thomas  in  Lawrence
v. Texas wherein  it  was  stated  that  promotion  of  majoritarian  sexual
morality was  a  legitimate  state  interest.   Shri  Ahmadi  stressed  that
Courts, by their very nature, should not undertake the task of  legislating.
He submitted that the Delhi High Court was not clear if it was severing  the
law, or reading it down. He argued that if the language of the  section  was
plain, there was no possibility of severing or reading it down.  He  further
argued that, irrespective of the Union Government’s stand, so  long  as  the
law stands on the statute book, there was a  constitutional  presumption  in
its favour.

16.15       Shri Purshottaman Mulloli submitted that the data  presented  by
NACO was fraudulent and manufactured and the disparities and  contradictions
were apparent.

16.16       Shri Sushil Kumar Jain argued that the High  Court  was  not  at
all justified in  striking down Section 377 IPC on the specious  grounds  of
violation  of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution and submitted  that
the matter should have been left to Parliament  to  decide  as  to  what  is
moral and what is immoral and whether the  section  in  question  should  be
retained in the statute book.  Shri Jain emphasized  that  mere  possibility
of abuse of any particular provision cannot be a  ground  for  declaring  it

16.17        Shri  Praveen  Aggarwal  argued  that  all  fundamental  rights
operate in a square of reasonable  restrictions.   There  is  censorship  in
case of Freedom of Speech and Expression.  High percentage of  AIDS  amongst
homosexuals shows that the act in dispute covered under Section 377  IPC  is
a social evil and, therefore, the restriction on it is reasonable.

17.         Shri F.S. Nariman, Senior Advocate  appearing  for  Minna  Saran
and  others  (parents  of  Lesbian  Gay  Bisexual  and  Transgender   (LGBT)
children), led arguments on behalf of the learned counsel who supported  the
order of the High Court.  Shri Nariman referred to the  legislative  history
of the statutes enacted in Britain including Clauses  361  and  362  of  the
Draft Penal Code, 1837 which preceded the enactment of Section  377  IPC  in
its present form and made the following arguments:

17.1        Interpretation of Section 377 is  not  in  consonance  with  the
scheme of the IPC, with established principles of  interpretation  and  with
the changing nature of society.

17.2         That  Section  377  punishes  whoever  voluntarily  has  carnal
intercourse against the  order  of  nature.  This  would  render  liable  to
punishment- (a) Any person who has intercourse  with  his  wife  other  than
penile - vaginal intercourse; (b) Any person  who  has  intercourse  with  a
woman without using a contraceptive.

17.3        When the same act is committed by 2 consenting  males,  and  not
one, it cannot be regarded as an offence  when-  (i)  The  act  is  done  in
private; (ii) The act is not in the nature of sexual assault,  causing  harm
to one of the two individuals  indulging  in  it;  and  (iii)  No  force  or
coercion is used since there is mutual consent.

17.4        Section 377 must be read in light of  constitutional  provisions
which include the “right to be let alone”. The  difference  between  obscene
acts in private and public is statutorily recognized in Section 294 IPC.

17.5        The phraseology of Section 377 (‘Carnal intercourse against  the
order of nature’) is quaint and archaic, it should be given a meaning  which
reflects the era when it was enacted. (1860)

17.6        Section  377  should  be  interpreted  in  the  context  of  its
placement in  the  IPC  as  criminalizing  an  act  in  some  way  adversely
affecting the human body and not an act which is an offence  against  morals
as dealt with in Chapter XIV. The language of Section 377  is  qua  harm  of
adverse affection to the body which is the  context  in  which  the  section
appears. It would have to be associated with sexual assault.  It  is  placed
at the end of the Chapter XVI (Of Offences affecting  the  human  body)  and
not in Chapter  XIV  (Of  Offences  affecting  the  Public  Health,  Safety,
Convenience, Decency and Morals).

17.7         Chapter   Headings  and  sub  headings  provide  a   guide   to
interpreting the scope and ambit of Section 377.  The  Petitioners  rely  on
G.P. Singh, Principles of Statutory Interpretation,13th Ed. 2012, pp  167  –
170, Raichuramatham Prabhakar v. Rawatmal Dugar, (2004) 4 SCC  766  at  para
14 and DPP v. Schildkamp, 1971 A.C. 1 at page 23. Headings or Titles may  be
taken  as  a  condensed  name  assigned   to   indicate   collectively   the
characteristics  of  the  subject  matter  dealt  with  by   the   enactment

17.8        Section 377 is  impermissibly  vague,  delegates  policy  making
powers to the police and results in harassment and abuse of  the  rights  of
LGBT persons. The Petitioners rely on State of MP v. Baldeo  Prasad,  (1961)
1 SCR 970 at 989 which held that, ‘Where a statute  empowers  the  specified
authorities to take preventive action against the citizens it  is  essential
that it should expressly make it a part of the duty of the said  authorities
to satisfy themselves about the existence of what  the  statute  regards  as
conditions precedent to the exercise of the said authority. If  the  statute
is silent in respect of one of such  conditions  precedent,  it  undoubtedly
constitutes a serious infirmity which would inevitably take it  out  of  the
provisions of Article 19 (5).’

17.9        Widespread abuse and harassment of  LGBT  persons  u/s  377  has
been incontrovertibly established. The appellants rely on paras 21, 22,  50,
74 and 94 of the judgment of the Division Bench of the Delhi High  Court  in
Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation which  records  evidence  of  various
instances of  the  use  of  Section  377  to  harass  members  of  the  LGBT
community. These were based on paras 33 and 35 of the  Writ  Petition  filed
by the  Naz  Foundation  challenging  the  vires  of  Section  377.  It  was
supported by various documents brought  on  record,  such  as  Human  Rights
Watch Report, July 2002 titled, “Epidemic of  Abuse:  Police  Harassment  of
HIV/AIDS Outreach Workers in India”; Affidavits giving instances of  torture
and sexual abuse; Jayalakshmi v.  State,  (2007)  4  MLJ  849  dealing  with
sexual abuse and torture of a eunuch by police; An Order of  a  Metropolitan
Magistrate alleging an offence u/s 377 against two women even  though  there
is an express requirement of penetration under the  Explanation  to  Section

17.10       Section 377 is  ultra  vires  of  Article  14  as  there  is  no
classification apparent on the face of it.

17.11       The appellants contend that Section 377 is too  broadly  phrased
as it may include: (1) Carnal intercourse  between  husband  and  wife;  (2)
Carnal  intercourse  between  man  and  woman  for  pleasure   without   the
possibility of conception of  a  human  being;  (3)  Use  of  contraceptives
between  man  and  woman;  (4)  Anal  sex  between  husband  and  wife;  (5)
Consenting carnal intercourse  between  man  and  man;  (6)  Non  consenting
carnal intercourse between man and man; (7) Carnal intercourse with a  child
with or without consent.

17.12       The Section does not  lay  down  any  principle  or  policy  for
exercise of discretion as to which of all these cases  he  may  investigate.
It is silent on whether the offence  can  be  committed  taking  within  its
ambit, the most private of places, the home.

17.13       Section 377  targets  the  LGBT  community  by  criminalizing  a
closely  held  personal  characteristic  such  as  sexual  orientation.   By
covering within its ambit, consensual sexual  acts  by  persons  within  the
privacy of their homes, it is repugnant to the right to equality.

18.          Shri  Shyam  Divan,   learned   senior   counsel   representing
respondent No.11-Voices Against 377, made the following arguments:

18.1        Section 377 is ultra vires Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(a) and  21  of
the Constitution inasmuch as it violates the dignity and personhood  of  the
LGBT community. Sexual rights and sexuality are a part of human  rights  and
are guaranteed under Article  21.  It  is  scientifically  established  that
consensual same sex conduct is not  “against  the  order  of  nature”.  LGBT
persons do not seek any special rights. They  merely  seek  their  right  to
equality of not to be criminalized for being who they are. Our  Constitution
does not deny any citizen the right  to  fully  develop  relationships  with
other persons of the same gender by casting a shadow of criminality on  such
sexual relationships. Justice Vivian Bose in Krishna  v.  State  of  Madras,
1951 SCR 621 stated: ‘When there is ambiguity or doubt the  construction  of
any clause in the chapter on Fundamental Rights, it is our duty  to  resolve
it in favour of the freedoms so  solemnly  stressed.’  Section  377  in  its
interpretation and operation targets  LGBT  persons  and  deprives  them  of
their full moral citizenship. This Court has developed  great  human  rights
jurisprudence in  cases  concerning  under  trials,  scavengers  and  bonded
labourers to interpret the notion of ‘dignity’. The  Delhi  High  Court  has
exercised its jurisdiction to separate out the offending portion of  Section
377 IPC.  Shri Divan also referred to the  legislative  history  of  Section
377   IPC  and  argued  that  this  provision   perpetuates   violation   of
fundamental rights of LGBT persons.  Shri Divan referred to  the  incidents,
which took place at Lucknow (2002 and  2006),  Bangalore  (2004  and  2006),
Delhi (2006), Chennai (2006), Goa (2007), and Aligarh (2011) to  bring  home
the point that LGBT persons have been targeted by the police  with  impunity
and the judiciary at the grass  route  level  has  been  extremely  slow  to
recognize  harassment  suffered  by  the  victims.   He  also  relied   upon
‘Homosexuality:  A Dilemma in Discourse, Corsini  Concise  Encyclopaedia  of
Psychology and Behavioural Science’, articles written by Prof. Upendra  Baxi
and Prof. S.P. Sathe, 172nd Report of the  Law  Commission  which  contained
recommendation for deleting Section 377 IPC and argued that Section 377  has
been  rightly  declared  unconstitutional  because  it  infringes  right  to
privacy and right to dignity.  He relied upon  the  statement  made  by  the
Attorney General on 22.3.2012 that the Government of  India  does  not  find
any legal error in the order of the High Court and accepts the  same.   Shri
Divan further argued that Section 377 IPC targets LGBT persons  as  a  class
and is, therefore, violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

19.         Shri Anand Grover, learned senior counsel  for  respondent  No.1
made the following submissions:

19.1        Section 377 criminalises certain  sexual  acts  covered  by  the
expressions  “carnal  intercourse  against  the  order  of  nature”  between
consenting adults in private. The expression has been interpreted  to  imply
penile non vaginal sex. Though facially neutral, these acts  are  identified
and perceived by the broader society to be indulged in by homosexual men.

19.2        By criminalising these acts which are an expression of the  core
sexual personality of homosexual men, Section  377  makes  them  out  to  be
criminals with deleterious consequences thus impairing their human dignity.

19.3         Article  21  protects  intrusion  into  the  zone  of  intimate
relations entered into in  the  privacy  of  the  home  and  this  right  is
violated by Section 377,  particularly  of  homosexual  men.  The  issue  is
therefore whether protection of  the  privacy  is  available  to  consenting
adults who may indulge in “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”.

19.4        Section 377  does  not  fulfil  the  just  fair  and  reasonable
criteria of substantive due process now read into Article 21.

19.5        Criminalisation impairs health services for  gay  men  and  thus
violates their right to health under Article 21.

19.6        Section 377 is vague and seeks  to  introduce  a  classification
which is not based on rational criteria and the object it seeks  to  advance
is not a legitimate state object.

19.7        The history of unnatural offences against the  order  of  nature
and their enforcement in India during the Mogul time, British time and  post
independence, shows that the concept  was  introduced  by  the  British  and
there was no law criminalising such acts in India. It  is  based  on  Judeo-
Christian moral and ethical  standards  which  conceive  of  sex  on  purely
functional terms, that is, for procreation. Post  independence  the  section
remained on the statute books and is now seen as part of Indian  values  and

19.8        Though facially neutral, an  analysis  of  the  judgments  shows
that heterosexual couples have been practically excluded from the  ambit  of
the section and homosexual men are targeted by virtue of  their  association
with the proscribed acts.

19.9        The criminalisation of Section 377 impacts homosexual men  at  a
deep level and restricts their right to dignity,  personhood  and  identity,
privacy, equality and right to health by criminalising all forms  of  sexual
intercourse that homosexual men can indulge in  as  the  penetrative  sexual
acts they indulge in are essentially penile non  vaginal.  It  impacts  them
disproportionately as a class especially because it restricts  only  certain
forms of sexual intercourse that heterosexual persons can  indulge  in.  The
expression of homosexual  orientation  which  is  an  innate  and  immutable
characteristic of homosexual persons is criminalised  by  Section  377.  The
section ends up criminalising identity and not mere acts as  it  is  usually
homosexual or  transgender  persons  who  are  associated  with  the  sexual
practices proscribed under Section 377 (relied  on  National  Coalition  for
Gay and Lesbian Equality v. Minster of Justice & Ors. 1998  (12)  BCLR  1517
(CC), Queen Empress v. Khairati 1884 ILR 6 ALL 204, Noshirwan  v.  Emperor).
While  the  privacy  of  heterosexual  relations,  especially  marriage  are
clothed in  legitimacy,  homosexual  relations  are  subjected  to  societal
disapproval and scrutiny. The section has  been  interpreted  to  limit  its
application to same sex sexual acts (Govindrajulu,  in  re,  (1886)  1  Weir
382. Grace Jayamani v. E Peter AIR 1982 Kar 46,  Lohana  Vasantlal  Devchand
v. State). Sexual intimacy is a core  aspect  of  human  experience  and  is
important to mental health, psychological well being and social  adjustment.
By criminalising sexual acts engaged in by homosexual men, they  are  denied
this  fundamental  human  experience  while   the   same   is   allowed   to
heterosexuals. The section exposed homosexual  persons  to  disproportionate
risk of prosecution and harassment. There have been documented instances  of
harassment and abuse, for example, Lucknow 2001 and Lucknow 2006.

19.10       Criminalisation creates a culture of silence and intolerance  in
society and  perpetuates  stigma  and  discrimination  against  homosexuals.
Homosexual persons are  reluctant  to  reveal  their  orientation  to  their
family. Those who have revealed their  orientation  are  faced  with  shock,
denial and rejection  and  some  are  even  pressurised  through  abuse  and
marriage to cure themselves. They  are  subjected  to  conversion  therapies
such as electro-convulsive  therapy  although  homosexuality  is  no  longer
considered a disease or a mental disorder but an alternate variant of  human
sexuality and an immutable characteristic which cannot  be  changed.  Infact
the American Psychiatry Association and American  Psychological  Association
filed an amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas demonstrating the harm  from  and
the groundlessness of the criminalisation of same sex sexual acts.

19.11       Fundamental rights must  be  interpreted  in  an  expansive  and
purposive manner so as to enhance the dignity of the  individual  and  worth
of the human person. The Constitution is a living  document  and  it  should
remain flexible to meet newly emerging problems and challenges.  The  rights
under Articles 14, 19 and 21 must be read together. The  right  to  equality
under Article 14 and the right to dignity and privacy under Article  21  are
interlinked and must be fulfilled for other rights to be truly  effectuated.
International law can be used to  expand  and  give  effect  to  fundamental
rights guaranteed under our Constitution.  This  includes  UDHR,  ICCPR  and
ICESCR which have been ratified  by  India.  In  particular  the  ICCPR  and
ICESCR have  been  domesticated  through  enactment  of  Section  2  of  the
Protection  of  Human  Rights  Act   1993   (Francis   Coralie   Mullin   v.
Administrator, UT of Delhi (1981) 1 SCC 608, M. Nagaraj v. UoI (2006) 8  SCC
212, Maneka Gandhi v. UoI (1978) 1 SCC 248, Tractor  Export  v.  Tarapore  &
Co., (1969) 3 SCC 562, Jolly George v. Bank of  Cochin  (1980)  2  SCC  360,
Gramaphone Company of India Ltd. v. Birendra Bahadur  Pandey  (1984)  2  SCC
534, Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. UoI (1996) 5 SCC 647, Vishaka &  Ors.
v. State of Rajasthn & Ors (1997) 6 SCC 241, PUCL v. UoI & Anr (1997) 1  SCC
301, PUCL v. UoI & Anr (1997) 3 SCC 433, Apparel  Export  Promotion  Council
v. A.K. Chopra (1999) 1 SCC 759, Pratap Singh v. State of  Jharkhand  (2005)
3 SCC 551, PUCL v. UoI &  Anr.  (2005)  2  SCC  436,  Entertainment  Network
(India) Ltd. v. Super Cassette Industries (2008) 12 SCC 10,  Smt.  Selvi  v.
State of Karnataka (2010) 7 SCC 263).

19.12       Section 377 violates the right to privacy,  dignity  and  health
guaranteed under Article 21 of all persons especially homosexual men.

19.13       Section 377 fails the criteria of substantive due process  under
Article 21 as it infringes upon the private sphere  of  individuals  without
justification which is not permissible. The principle has been  incorporated
into Indian jurisprudence in the last few  years  after  the  Maneka  Gandhi
case. The test of whether a  law  is  just  fair  and  reasonable  has  been
applied in examining the validity of state action which infringes  upon  the
realm of personal liberty (Mithu v. State of Punjab (1983) 2 SCC 277,  Selvi
v. State of Karnataka (2010) 7 SCC 263, State  of  Punjab  v.  Dalbir  Singh
(2012) 2 SCALE 126, Rajesh Kumar v. State  through  Govt  of  NCT  of  Delhi
(2011) 11 SCALE 182).

19.14       The guarantee of human dignity forms a part of  Article  21  and
our  constitutional  culture.  It  seeks  to  ensure  full  development  and
evolution  of  persons.  It  includes  right  to  carry  on  functions   and
activities which constitute the bare minimum  of  expression  of  the  human
self. The right is intimately related to the right to  privacy.  Dignity  is
linked to personal self realisation and autonomy.  Personal  intimacies  and
sexual relations are an important part of  the  expression  of  oneself.  In
light of the right to privacy, dignity and bodily  integrity,  there  should
be no restriction on a person’s decision to participate or  not  participate
in a sexual activity. By making certain sexual relations between  consenting
adults a crime, Section 377 by its existence  demeans  and  degrades  people
and imposes an examination on sexual  intercourse.  This  is  regardless  of
whether it is enforced. By denying sexual expression which is  an  essential
experience of a human being, Section 377 violates the dignity of  homosexual
men in particular. Sex between two men  can  never  be  penile  vaginal  and
hence virtually all penile  penetrative  acts  between  homosexual  men  are
offences. As the society associates these  acts  with  homosexual  men  they
become  suspect  of  committing  an   offence   thus   creating   fear   and
vulnerability and reinforcing stigma of being a criminal (refer  to  Francis
Coralie Mullin, Prem Shankar Shukla v. Delhi  Administration  (1980)  3  SCC
526, Maharashtra University  of  Health  Science  and  Ors.  v.  Satchikitsa
Prasarak Mandal and Ors. (2010) 3 SCC 786,  Kharak  Singh,  Noise  Pollution
(V), In re (2005) 5 SCC 733, DK Basu v.  State  of  WB  (1997)  1  SCC  416,
Gobind, Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh  Administration  (2009)  9  SCC  1,
Egan v. Canada [1995] 2 SCR 513, Law v. Canada (Minister of  Employment  and
Immigration [1999] 1 SCR 497, Lawrence v. Texas, National Coalition  of  Gay
and Lesbian Equality & Ors.).

19.15       Right to health is an inherent part of the right to  life  under
Article 21, it is recognised  by  the  ICESC  which  has  been  domesticated
through Section 2 of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993. Article 12  of
the ICESCR requires states to  take  measures  to  protect  and  fulfil  the
health of all persons. States are obliged to  ensure  the  availability  and
accessibility of health services,  information,  education  facilitates  and
goods without  discrimination  especially  to  vulnerable  and  marginalised
sections of the population. The Govt. has committed to addressing the  needs
of those at the  greatest  risk  of  HIV  including  MSM  and  transgendered
persons. The risk of contracting HIV through unprotected penile anal sex  is
higher than through penile vaginal sex. The HIV prevalence in  MSM  is  7.3%
which is disproportionately higher than in that of  the  general  population
which is less than 0.5%. The prevalence continues to  rise  in  many  States
and this is because of the stigmatisation  of  the  MSM  population  due  to
which  they  are  not  provided  with  sexual  health   services   including
prevention services such as condoms. Due to pressure, some  MSM  also  marry
women thus acting as a bridge population. Criminalisation  increases  stigma
and discrimination and acts as  a  barrier  to  HIV  prevention  programmes.
Section 377 thwarts health services by preventing collection  of  HIV  data,
impeding dissemination  of  information,  forcing  harassment,  threats  and
closure upon organisations who work with MSM, preventing supply  of  condoms
as it is seen as aiding  an  offence;  limits  access  to  health  services,
driving  the  community  underground;  prevents  disclosure   of   symptoms;
increases sexual violence and harassment against the community; and  creates
an absence of safe spaces leading to risky sex.  There  are  little  if  any
negative  consequences  of  decriminalisation  and  studies  have  shown   a
reduction  in   STDs   (sexually   transmitted   diseases)   and   increased
psychological adjustment.

19.16       Section 377 is vague and arbitrary. It  is  incapable  of  clear
construction such that those affected by it do not know the  true  intention
as it does not clearly indicate  the  prohibition.  The  expression  “carnal
intercourse against the order  of  nature”  has  not  been  defined  in  the
statute. In the absence of legislative guidance, courts are left  to  decide
what acts constitute the same. A study of the cases shows  that  application
has become inconsistent and highly varied. From excluding oral  sex  to  now
including oral sex, anal sex and penetration into artificial  orifices  such
as folded palms or between thighs by terming them  as  imitative  actors  or
acts of sexual perversity, the scope has been so broadened that there is  no
reasonable idea of what acts are prohibited. It is only  clear  that  penile
vaginal acts are not covered. This results in  arbitrary  application  of  a
penal law which is violative of Article 14 (refer to AK Roy v. UoI (1982)  1
SCC 271, KA Abbas v. UoI and Anr. (1970) 2 SCC 760, Harish Chandra Gupta  v.
State of UP AIR 1960 All 650, Subhash Chandra and Anr. v. Delhi  Subordinate
Services Selection Board (2009) 15 SCC 458).

19.17       Section 377 distinguishes between carnal  intercourse  which  is
against the order of nature and  not  against  the  order  of  nature.  This
classification is unintelligible. It is arbitrary and  not  scientific.  Due
to an absence of legislative guidance it is left  to  the  Court  to  decide
what constitutes against the order of nature. The test in  this  regard  has
shifted from acts without possibility of procreation to  imitative  acts  to
acts amounting to sexual perversity. These parameters  cannot  be  discerned
on an objective basis.  The object of  the  classification  which  seeks  to
enforce Victorian notion of sexual morality which included only  procreative
sex is unreasonable as condemnation of non procreative sex is  no  longer  a
legitimate  state  object.  Furthermore   advancing   public   morality   is
subjective and cannot inform  intrusions  in  personal  autonomy  especially
since it is majoritarian. Even assuming that the section was valid  when  it
was enacted in 1861, the unreasonableness is pronounced with  time  and  the
justification does not hold valid today. (refer to DS Nakara v.  UoI  (1983)
1 SCC 305, Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab (1994) 3 SCC 569,  M  Nagaraj  v.
UoI (2006) 8 SCC 212, Anuj Garg v. Hotel Association of India (2008)  3  SCC
1, Deepak Sibal v. Punjab University (1989) 2 SCC  145,  Suchita  Srivastava
v. Chandigarh Administration).

19.18       Section  377  is  disproportionate  and  discriminatory  in  its
impact on homosexuals. The law must not only be  assessed  on  its  proposed
aims but also on its implications and effects. Though facially neutral,  the
section predominantly outlaws sexual activity between men which  is  by  its
very nature penile non vaginal. While heterosexual persons indulge  in  oral
and anal sex, their conduct does not attract scrutiny except when the  woman
is underage or  unwilling.  In  fact,  Courts  have  even  excluded  married
heterosexual couples from the ambit of Section 377. When homosexual  conduct
is made criminal, this declaration itself is  an  invitation  to  perpetrate
discrimination. It also reinforces societal prejudices. (Anuj Garg v.  Hotel
Association of India,  Peerless  General  Finance  Investment  Co.  Ltd.  v.
Reserve Bank of India (1992) 2 SCC 343, Grace Jayamani v. EP Peter AIR  1982
Kant. 46,  Lawrence  v.  Texas,  National  Coalition  for  Gay  and  Lesbian
Equality, Dhirendra Nadan v. State–Criminal Case Nos.HAA0085 &  86  of  2005
(Fiji High Court).
19.19       Section 377 violates Article 15 by discriminating on the  ground
of sexual orientation as although facially neutral it treats homosexual  men
unequally compared to heterosexuals and imposes an unequal burden  on  them.
The general purport of Article 15  is  to  prohibit  discrimination  on  the
grounds enumerated therein. It is contended that as Article 15(3)  uses  the
expression “women” the word sex in  Article  15(1)  must  partake  the  same
character. However it is submitted that Article 15(3) must  not  be  allowed
to limit the understanding of Article 15(1) and reduce it to a  binary  norm
of man and woman only.  This becomes clear when Article 15(2) is applied  to
transgendered  persons  who  identify  as  a  third  gender.  For   example,
Government of India has introduced an option for “others” in the sex  column
of the  passport  application  form.  This  can  be  achieved  only  if  the
expression “sex” is read to be broader than the binary  norm  of  biological
sex as man or woman. The Constitution is a living  document  and  the  Court
can  breathe  content  into  rights.  The  underlying  purpose  against  sex
discrimination is to prevent differential treatment for the reasons  of  non
conformity with normal or natural sexual or gender roles. Sex relations  are
intricately tied to gender stereotypes. Accordingly  discrimination  on  the
ground of sex necessarily includes discrimination on  the  basis  of  sexual
orientation. Like gender discrimination,  discrimination  on  the  basis  of
sexual orientation is directed against an immutable and core  characteristic
of human personality. Even international law recognises  sexual  orientation
as being included in the ground “sex”. The  determination  of  impact  of  a
legislation must be taken in a contextual manner  taking  into  account  the
content, purpose, characteristics and circumstances of the law. Section  377
does not take into account the differences in individuals in terms of  their
sexual orientation and makes sexual practices  relevant  to  and  associated
with a class of homosexual persons criminal. It criminalises acts which  are
normal sexual expressions for homosexual men because they can  only  indulge
in penetrative acts which are penile non vaginal.  Distinction  based  on  a
prohibited ground cannot be allowed regardless of how  laudable  the  object
is. If a law operates to discriminate  against  some  persons  only  on  the
basis of a prohibited ground, it must be struck down.  (M  Nagaraj  v.  UoI,
Anuj Garg v. Hotel Association  of  India,  Toonen  v.  Australia,  Egan  v.
Canada, Vriend v. Alberta, Punjab Province v. Daulat Singh AIR 1946  PC  66,
State of Bombay v. Bombay Education Society [1955] SCR 568  ).  Shri  Grover
also submitted that the Courts in other countries have struck  down  similar
laws that criminalise same-sex  sexual  conduct  on  the  ground  that  they
violate the right to privacy, dignity and equality.
20.         Shri Ashok Desai, learned senior counsel, who appeared for  Shri
Shyam Benegal argued that Section  377  IPC,  which  is  a  pre-Constitution
statute, should be interpreted in a manner which may  ensure  protection  of
freedom and dignity of the individuals.  He submitted that the Court  should
also take cognizance of changing values and  temporal  reasonableness  of  a
statute.  Shri Desai emphasized that the attitude of  the  society  is  fast
changing and the acts which were treated as  offence  should  no  longer  be
made punitive.  He referred to medical literature to show that sexuality  is
a human condition and argued that it should not be regarded as  a  depravity
or a sin or a crime.  Learned senior  counsel  submitted  that  in  view  of
Section 377 IPC which stigmatized homosexuality, not  only  homosexuals  but
their  families  face  stigma  and  discrimination.   He  referred  to   the
recommendations made by 172nd Law Commission  Report  for  deleting  Section
377 IPC, the survey conducted by Outlook Magazine giving the  statistics  of
the  persons  who  indulged  in  different  sexual  practices,  the  support
extended by the eminent persons including Swami Agnivesh, Soli  J.  Sorabjee
(Senior Advocate), Capt. Laxmi Sehgal, Aruna  Roy,  Prof.  Amartya  Sen  and
Prof. Upendra Baxi for deleting Section  377  IPC  and  submitted  that  the
impugned order should be upheld.   Learned  senior  counsel  further  argued
that  Section  377  IPC,  which  applies  to  same  sex  relations   between
consenting adults violates the constitutional guarantee  of  equality  under
Articles 14 and 15 and the High Court rightly applied Yogyakarta  principles
for de-criminalisation of the section challenged in the writ petition  filed
by respondent No.1.  He supported the High Court’s decision  to  invoke  the
principle of severability.  Shri Ram Jethmalani, Senior  Advocate,  who  did
not argue the  case,  but  filed  written  submissions  also  supported  the
impugned order and argued that the High Court did not commit  any  error  by
declaring Section 377 IPC as violative of Articles 14,  15  and  21  of  the

21.   The learned Attorney General, who argued the case as  Amicus,  invited
our attention to affidavit dated  1.3.2012  filed  on  behalf  of  the  Home
Ministry to show that the Group of Ministers constituted  for  looking  into
the issue relating to constitutionality of Section 377 IPC recommended  that
there is no error in the impugned order, but  the  Supreme  Court  may  take
final view in the matter.  The learned Attorney General submitted  that  the
declaration granted by the High Court may not result in deletion of  Section
377 IPC from the statute book, but a proviso  would  have  to  be  added  to
clarify that nothing contained therein shall apply to  any  sexual  activity
between the two consenting adults  in  private.   Learned  Attorney  General
also emphasised that the Court must take cognizance of the  changing  social
values and reject the moral views prevalent in Britain in the 18th century.

22.    Shri  P.P.  Malhotra,  learned  Additional  Solicitor  General,   who
appeared on behalf  of  the  Ministry  of  Home  Affairs,  referred  to  the
affidavit filed before the Delhi High Court wherein  the  Ministry  of  Home
Affairs had opposed de-criminalisation of homosexuality and argued  that  in
its 42nd Report, the Law Commission had  recommended  retention  of  Section
377 IPC because the societal disapproval thereof was very  strong.   Learned
Additional  Solicitor  General  submitted  that   the   legislature,   which
represents the will of the people has decided not to delete and  it  is  not
for the Court to  import the extra-ordinary  moral  values  and  thrust  the
same  upon  the  society.   He  emphasized  that  even  after  60  years  of
independence, Parliament has not  thought  it  proper  to  delete  or  amend
Section 377 IPC and there is no warrant for the High Court to have  declared
the provision as ultra vires Articles 14,15 and 21 of the Constitution.

23.   Shri Mohan Jain, learned Additional Solicitor General who appeared  on
behalf of the Ministry of Health, submitted  that  because  of  their  risky
sexual behaviour, MSM and female sex workers are at a high risk  of  getting
HIV/AIDS as compared to normal human beings.  He  pointed  out  that  as  in
2009, the estimated number of MSM was 12.4 lakhs.

24.   We have considered the arguments/submissions of  the  learned  counsel
and perused the detailed written submissions filed by them.   We  have  also
gone through the voluminous literature placed on record  and  the  judgments
of other jurisdictions to which reference has  been  made  in  the  impugned
order and on which reliance has been placed by the learned counsel who  have
supported the order under challenge.

25.   We shall first deal with the issue relating to the scope  of  judicial
review of legislations.      Since Section 377 IPC is  a  pre-Constitutional
legislation, it has been adopted after enactment  of  the  Constitution,  it
will be useful to analyse the ambit and scope of the powers of the  superior
Courts to declare such a provision as unconstitutional.   Articles  13,  14,
15, 19, 21, 32, 226 and 372 of the Constitution, which have bearing  on  the
issue mentioned herein above read as under:

      “13. Laws inconsistent  with  or  in  derogation  of  the  fundamental
      rights.—(1) All laws in force in the territory  of  India  immediately
      before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far  as  they  are
      inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, shall, to the extent of
      such inconsistency, be void.

      (2) The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges  the
      rights conferred by this Part and any law  made  in  contravention  of
      this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void.

      (3) In this Article, unless the context otherwise requires,—
      (a) “law” includes any Ordinance, order,  bye-law,  rule,  regulation,
      notification, custom or usage having in the  territory  of  India  the
      force of law;
      (b) “laws in force” includes laws passed or made by a  Legislature  or
      other competent  authority  in  the  territory  of  India  before  the
      commencement  of  this  Constitution  and  not  previously   repealed,
      notwithstanding that any such law or any part thereof may not be  then
      in operation either at all or in particular areas.
      (4) Nothing in this Article shall  apply  to  any  amendment  of  this
      Constitution made under Article 368.

      14. Equality before law.— The State  shall  not  deny  to  any  person
      equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the
      territory of India.

      15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste,
      sex or place of birth-

      (1) The State shall not discriminate against any  citizen  on  grounds
      only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
      (2) No citizen shall, on ground only of religion,  race,  caste,  sex,
      place of  birth  or  any  of  them,  be  subject  to  any  disability,
      liability, restriction or condition with regard to -
      (a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places  of  public
      entertainment; or
      (b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public
      resort maintained whole or partly out of State funds or  dedicated  to
      the use of general public.
      (3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State  from  making  any
      special provision for women and children.
      (4) Nothing in this article  or  in  clause  (2)  or  article 29 shall
      prevent  the  State  from  making  any  special  provision   for   the
      advancement of any socially  and  educationally  backward  classes  of
      citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
      (5) Nothing I  this article or in  sub-clause  (g)  of  clause  ()  of
      article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special  provision,
      by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward
      classes of citizen or for the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes  in
      so far as  such  special  provisions  relate  to  their  admission  to
      educational institutions including private  educational  institutions,
      whether aided or  unaided  by  the  State,  other  than  the  minority
      educational institutions referred to in Clause (1) of article 30.

      19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc.- (1)
      All citizens shall have the right-
      (a) to freedom of speech and expression;
      (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
            to form associations or unions;
      (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
      (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of  India;  and

      (f) omitted
      (g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any  occupation,  trade
      or business.

      (2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation
      of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law,  in  so
      far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the
      right conferred by  the  said  sub-clause  in  the  interests  of  the
      sovereignty and  integrity  of  India,  the  security  of  the  State,
      friendly relations with  foreign  States,  public  order,  decency  or
      morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement
      to an offence.

      (3) Nothing in sub-clause (b) of the  said  clause  shall  affect  the
      operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent  the
      State  from  making  any  law  imposing,  in  the  interests  of   the
      sovereignty  and  integrity  of  India  or  public  order,  reasonable
      restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the  said  sub-

      (4) Nothing in sub-clause    of  the  said  clause  shall  affect  the
      operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent  the
      State  from  making  any  law  imposing,  in  the  interests  of   the
      sovereignty and integrity  of  India  or  public  order  or  morality,
      reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by  the
      said sub-clause.

      (5) Nothing in sub-clauses (d) and (e) of the said clause shall affect
      the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or  prevent
      the State from making any law imposing, reasonable restrictions on the
      exercise of any of the rights conferred by the said sub-clauses either
      in the interests of the general public or for the  protection  of  the
      interests of any Scheduled Tribe.

      (6) Nothing in sub-clause (g) of the  said  clause  shall  affect  the
      operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent  the
      State from making any law imposing, in the interests  of  the  general
      public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred
      by the said sub-clause, and, in particular, nothing in the  said  sub-
      clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as  it
      relates to, or prevent the State from making any law relating to,-  

      (i)  the  professional  or  technical  qualifications  necessary   for
      practising any profession or carrying  on  any  occupation,  trade  or
      business, or    

      (ii) the carrying on by the  State,  or  by  a  corporation  owned  or
      controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or  service,
      whether  to  the  exclusion,  complete  or  partial,  of  citizens  or

      21. Protection of life and personal liberty.  —  No  person  shall  be
      deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure
      established by law.

      32. Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by this Part.—
      (1) The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for
      the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed.
      (2) The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions  or  orders
      or writs, including writs in the nature of  habeas  corpus,  mandamus,
      prohibition,  quo  warranto   and   certiorari,   whichever   may   be
      appropriate, for the enforcement of any of  the  rights  conferred  by
      this Part.
      (3) Without prejudice to the powers conferred on the Supreme Court  by
      clauses (1) and (2), Parliament may by law empower any other court  to
      exercise within the local limits of its jurisdiction all or any of the
      powers exercisable by the Supreme Court under clause (2).
      (4) The right guaranteed by this Article shall not be suspended except
      as otherwise provided for by this Constitution.

      226. Power of High Courts to issue certain writs.—
      (1) Notwithstanding anything in Article 32,  every  High  Court  shall
      have power,  throughout  the  territories  in  relation  to  which  it
      exercises jurisdiction, to issue to any person or authority, including
      in  appropriate  cases,  any  Government,  within  those   territories
      directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature  of  habeas
      corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, or any  of
      them, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by  Part  III
      and for any other purpose.

      (2) The power conferred by clause (1) to issue directions,  orders  or
      writs to any Government, authority or person may also be exercised  by
      any High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to the  territories
      within which the cause of action, wholly or in part,  arises  for  the
      exercise  of  such  power,  notwithstanding  that  the  seat  of  such
      Government or authority or the residence of such person is not  within
      those territories.

      (3) Where any party against whom an interim order, whether by  way  of
      injunction or stay or in any other manner,  is  made  on,  or  in  any
      proceedings relating to, a petition under clause (1), without—
      (a) furnishing to such party copies of such petition and all documents
      in support of the plea for such interim order; and
      (b) giving  such  party  an  opportunity  of  being  heard,  makes  an
      application to the High Court for  the  vacation  of  such  order  and
      furnishes a copy of such application to the party in whose favour such
      order has been made or the counsel of such party, the High Court shall
      dispose of the application within a period of two weeks from the  date
      on which it is received or from the date on which  the  copy  of  such
      application is so furnished, whichever is later,  or  where  the  High
      Court is closed on the last day of that period, before the  expiry  of
      the next day afterwards on which the High Court is open;  and  if  the
      application is not so disposed of, the interim  order  shall,  on  the
      expiry of that period, or, as the case may be, the expiry of the  said
      next day, stand vacated.

      (4) The power conferred on a High Court by this Article shall  not  be
      in derogation of the power conferred on the Supreme  Court  by  clause
      (2) of Article 32.

      372. Continuance in force of existing laws and their adaptation.—
      (1) Notwithstanding the repeal by this Constitution of the  enactments
      referred to in
      Article 395 but subject to the other provisions of this  Constitution,
      all the law in force in the territory of India immediately before  the
      commencement of this Constitution  shall  continue  in  force  therein
      until altered or repealed or amended by  a  competent  Legislature  or
      other competent authority.
      (2) For the purpose of bringing the provisions of any law in force  in
      the territory of  India  into  accord  with  the  provisions  of  this
      Constitution, the President may by order  make  such  adaptations  and
      modifications of such law, whether by way of repeal or  amendment,  as
      may be necessary or expedient, and provide that the law shall, as from
      such date as may be specified in the order, have effect subject to the
      adaptations and modifications so made,  and  any  such  adaptation  or
      modification shall not be questioned in any court of law.
      (3) Nothing in clause (2) shall be deemed—
      (a) to empower the President to make any adaptation or modification of
      any law after the expiration of three years from the  commencement  of
      this Constitution; or
      (b) to prevent any competent Legislature or other competent  authority
      from repealing  or  amending  any  law  adapted  or  modified  by  the
      President under the said clause.
      Explanation I.—The expression “law in force”  in  this  Article  shall
      include a law passed or made  by  a  Legislature  or  other  competent
      authority in the territory of India before the  commencement  of  this
      Constitution and not previously repealed, notwithstanding that  it  or
      parts of it may  not  be  then  in  operation  either  at  all  or  in
      particular areas.
      Explanation II.—Any law passed or  made  by  a  Legislature  or  other
      competent authority in the territory of India which immediately before
      the commencement of this Constitution had extra-territorial effect  as
      well as effect in the territory of India shall, subject  to  any  such
      adaptations and modifications as  aforesaid,  continue  to  have  such
      extra-territorial effect.
      Explanation  III.—Nothing  in  this  Article  shall  be  construed  as
      continuing any temporary law in force beyond the date  fixed  for  its
      expiration or the  date  on  which  it  would  have  expired  if  this
      Constitution had not come into force.
      Explanation IV.—An Ordinance promulgated by the Governor of a Province
      under section 88 of the Government of India Act, 1935,  and  in  force
      immediately before the commencement of this Constitution shall, unless
      withdrawn by the Governor of the corresponding State earlier, cease to
      operate at the expiration of six weeks from the  first  meeting  after
      such  commencement  of  the  Legislative  Assembly   of   that   State
      functioning under clause (1) of  Article  382,  and  nothing  in  this
      Article shall be construed as continuing any such Ordinance  in  force
      beyond the said period.”

26.   A plain reading of these Articles suggests that  the  High  Court  and
this Court are empowered to declare as void any  pre-Constitutional  law  to
the extent of its inconsistency with the Constitution and  any  law  enacted
post the enactment of the Constitution to the extent that it takes  away  or
abridges the rights conferred by Part III of the  Constitution.  In  fact  a
constitutional duty has been cast upon this Court to test the  laws  of  the
land on the touchstone of the Constitution and  provide  appropriate  remedy
if and when called upon to do so. Seen in this light the power  of  judicial
review  over  legislations  is  plenary.  However,  keeping  in   mind   the
importance of separation of powers and out of a sense of  deference  to  the
value of democracy that parliamentary acts embody, self restraint  has  been
exercised  by  the  judiciary  when   dealing   with   challenges   to   the
constitutionality of laws. This form of restraint has manifested  itself  in
the principle of presumption of constitutionality.
27.   The principle was succinctly enunciated by a Constitutional  Bench  in
Ram Krishna Dalmia v. Shri Justice S.R. Tendolkar and Ors. AIR 1958  SC  538
in the following words:
      “…  (b)  that  there  is  always  a  presumption  in  favour  of   the
      constitutionality of an enactment and  the  burden  is  upon  him  who
      attacks it to show that there has been a clear  transgression  of  the
      constitutional principles;

      (c) that it must be presumed  that  the  legislature  understands  and
      correctly appreciates the need of its own people, that  its  laws  are
      directed  to  problems  made  manifest  by  experience  and  that  its
      discriminations are based on adequate grounds;

      (d) that the legislature is free to recognise degrees of harm and  may
      confine its restrictions to those cases where the need is deemed to be
      the clearest;

      (e) that in order to sustain the presumption of constitutionality  the
      court may take into consideration matters of common knowledge, matters
      of common report, the history of the times and may assume every  state
      of facts which can be conceived existing at the time  of  legislation;

      (f) that while good faith and knowledge of the existing conditions  on
      the part of a legislature are to be presumed, if there is  nothing  on
      the face of the law or the surrounding circumstances  brought  to  the
      notice of the court on which  the  classification  may  reasonably  be
      regarded as based, the  presumption  of  constitutionality  cannot  be
      carried to the extent of  always  holding  that  there  must  be  some
      undisclosed and unknown reasons for subjecting certain individuals  or
      corporations to hostile or discriminating legislation.”

      The application of the above noted principles to pre-Constitutional
statutes was elucidated in the following words:
      “18. It is neither in doubt nor in dispute that Clause 1 of Article 13
      of the Constitution of India in no uncertain  terms  states  that  all
      laws in force  in  the  territory  of  India  immediately  before  the
      commencement of the Constitution, in so far as they  are  inconsistent
      with the provisions of Part III there, shall, to the  extent  of  such
      inconsistency, be void. Keeping in view the fact that the Act is a pre-
      constitution enactment, the question as regards its  constitutionality
      will, therefore, have to be judged  as  being  law  in  force  at  the
      commencement of the Constitution of India [See Keshavan Madhava  Menon
      v. The State of Bombay - 1951CriLJ 680 . By  reason  of  Clause  1  of
      Article 13 of the Constitution of India, in the event, it be held that
      the provision is  unconstitutional  the  same  having  regard  to  the
      prospective  nature  would  be  void  only  with   effect   from   the
      commencement of the Constitution. Article 372 of the  Constitution  of
      India per force does not make a pre-constitution  statutory  provision
      to  be  constitutional.  It  merely  makes   a   provision   for   the
      applicability and enforceability of pre-constitution laws  subject  of
      course to the provisions  of  the  Constitution  and  until  they  are
      altered, repealed or amended  by  a  competent  legislature  or  other
      competent authorities.”

      Referring to that case, the Court in Anuj Garg v. Hotel Association
of India and Ors. (2008) 3 SCC 1, while dealing with the constitutionality
of Section 30 of Punjab Excise Act, 1914, this Court observed:
      “7. The Act is a pre-constitutional legislation. Although it is  saved
      in terms of Article 372 of the Constitution, challenge to its validity
      on the touchstone of Articles 14, 15 and 19  of  the  Constitution  of
      India, is permissible in law. While embarking on the questions raised,
      it may be pertinent to know that a statute although  could  have  been
      held to be a valid piece of legislation keeping in view  the  societal
      condition of those times, but with the changes occurring therein  both
      in the domestic as also international arena, such a law  can  also  be
      declared invalid.”

      In John Vallamattom and Anr. v. Union of India AIR 2003 SC 2902,  this
Court, while referring  to  an  amendment  made  in  UK  in  relation  to  a
provision which was in pari materia with Section 118  of  Indian  Succession
Act, observed:
      “The constitutionality of a provision, it is trite, will  have  to  be
      judged keeping in view  the  interpretative  changes  of  the  statute
      affected by passage of time.”

      Referring to the changing legal scenario  and  having  regard  to  the
Declaration on the Right to Development adopted by the World  Conference  on
Human Rights as also Article 18 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil  and
Political Rights, 1966, this Court observed:
      “It is trite that having regard to Article 13(1) of the  Constitution,
      the constitutionality of the impugned legislation is  required  to  be
      considered on the basis of laws existing on 26-1-1950, but while doing
      so the court is not  precluded  from  taking  into  consideration  the
      subsequent events which have taken place  thereafter.  It  is  further
      trite that the law although may be  constitutional  when  enacted  but
      with passage of time the same may be held to  be  unconstitutional  in
      view of the changed situation.”

Presumption of constitutionality:

28.   Every legislation enacted by Parliament or State  Legislature  carries
with it a presumption of constitutionality.  This is founded on the  premise
that the  legislature,  being  a  representative  body  of  the  people  and
accountable to them is aware of their needs and acts in their best  interest
within the confines of the Constitution. There is nothing  to  suggest  that
this principle would not apply to pre-Constitutional laws  which  have  been
adopted by the  Parliament  and  used  with  or  without  amendment.  If  no
amendment is made to a particular law it may represent a decision  that  the
Legislature has taken to leave the law as it is  and  this  decision  is  no
different from a decision to amend and change the law or enact  a  new  law.
In light of this, both pre and post Constitutional laws  are  manifestations
of the will of the people of India through the Parliament and  are  presumed
to be constitutional.

29.   The doctrine of severability  and  the  practice  of  reading  down  a
statute both arise out of the principle of presumption of  constitutionality
and are specifically recognized in Article 13 which renders the  law,  which
is pre-Constitutional to be void only to the extent  of  inconsistency  with
the Constitution. In R.M.D. Chamarbaugwalla v. The Union of India (UOI)  AIR
1957 SC 628, a Constitution  Bench  of  this  Court  noted  several  earlier
judgments on the issue of severability and observed as follows:

      “The doctrine of severability rests, as will presently be shown, on  a
      presumed intention of the legislature that if  a  part  of  a  statute
      turns out to be void, that should not affect the validity of the  rest
      of it, and that that intention is to be ascertained from the terms  of
      the statute. It is the  true  nature  of  the  subject-matter  of  the
      legislation that is the determining factor, and while a classification
      made in the statute might go far to support a conclusion in favour  of
      severability, the absence of it does not necessarily preclude it.

      When a statute is in part void, it will be  enforced  as  regards  the
      rest, if that is severable from what is invalid. It is immaterial  for
      the purpose of this rule whether the invalidity of the statute  arises
      by reason of its subject-matter being outside the  competence  of  the
      legislature or by reason of its provisions contravening constitutional

      26. That being the position in law, it is now  necessary  to  consider
      whether the impugned provisions are severable in their application  to
      competitions of a gambling character,  assuming  of  course  that  the
      definition of 'prize competition' in s. 2(d) is wide enough to include
      also competitions involving skill to a substantial degree. It will  be
      useful for the determination of this  question  to  refer  to  certain
      rules of construction laid down by  the  American  Courts,  where  the
      question of severability has been  the  subject  of  consideration  in
      numerous authorities. They may be summarised as follows:

      1. In determining whether the valid parts of a statute  are  separable
      from the invalid parts thereof, it is the intention of the legislature
      that is the determining factor. The test to be applied is whether  the
      legislature would have enacted the valid part if it had known that the
      rest of the statute was invalid. Vide Corpus Juris Secundum, Vol.  82,
      p. 156; Sutherland on Statutory Construction, Vol. 2, pp. 176-177.

      2. If the valid and invalid provisions are so  inextricably  mixed  up
      that they cannot be separated from one another, then the invalidity of
      a portion must result in the invalidity of the Act in its entirety. On
      the other hand, if they  are  so  distinct  and  separate  that  after
      striking out what is invalid, what remains is  in  itself  a  complete
      code independent of the rest, then it will be  upheld  notwithstanding
      that the rest has become unenforceable. Vide  Cooley's  Constitutional
      Limitations,  Vol.  1  at   pp.   360-361;   Crawford   on   Statutory
      Construction, pp. 217-218.

      3. Even when the provisions which are valid are distinct and  separate
      from those which are invalid, if they all form part of a single scheme
      which is intended to be operative as a whole, then also the invalidity
      of a part will result in the failure of the whole.  Vide  Crawford  on
      Statutory Construction, pp. 218-219.

      4. Likewise, when the  valid  and  invalid  parts  of  a  statute  are
      independent and do not form part of a scheme but what  is  left  after
      omitting the invalid portion is so thin and  truncated  as  to  be  in
      substance different from what it  was  when  it  emerged  out  of  the
      legislature, then also it will be rejected in its entirety.

      5. The separability of the valid and invalid provisions of  a  statute
      does not depend on whether the law is enacted in the same  section  or
      different sections; (Vide Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, Vol. 1,
      pp. 361-362); it is not the form, but the substance of the matter that
      is material, and that has to be ascertained on an examination  of  the
      Act as a whole and of the setting of the relevant provisions therein.

      6. If after the invalid portion is  expunged  from  the  statute  what
      remains  cannot   be   enforced   without   making   alterations   and
      modifications therein, then the whole of it must  be  struck  down  as
      void, as otherwise  it  will  amount  to  judicial  legislation.  Vide
      Sutherland on Statutory Construction, Vol. 2, p. 194.

      7.  In  determining  the  legislative  intent  on  the   question   of
      separability, it will be legitimate to take into account  the  history
      of the legislation, its object, the title and the preamble to it. Vide
      Sutherland on Statutory Construction, Vol. 2, pp. 177-178.”

30.   Another significant canon of  determination  of  constitutionality  is
that the Courts would be reluctant to declare a law invalid or  ultra  vires
on  account   of   unconstitutionality.   The   Courts   would   accept   an
interpretation, which would be in favour of  constitutionality  rather  than
the one which would render  the  law  unconstitutional.  Declaring  the  law
unconstitutional is one of the last resorts taken by the Courts. The  Courts
would preferably put  into  service  the  principle  of  'reading  down'  or
'reading into' the provision to make it effective, workable and  ensure  the
attainment of the object of the Act. These are the principles which  clearly
emerge from  the  consistent  view  taken  by  this  Court  in  its  various
pronouncements including the recent judgment in Namit  Sharma  v.  Union  of
India  (2013)1 SCC 745.

      In D.S. Nakara and Ors. v. Union of India (UOI) (1983)  1  SCC  305  a
Constitution Bench of this Court elucidated upon  the  practice  of  reading
down  statutes as an application  of  the  doctrine  of  severability  while
answering in affirmative the  question  whether  differential  treatment  to
pensioners related to the date of retirement qua  the  revised  formula  for
computation of pension attracts Article 14 of  the  Constitution.   Some  of
the observations made in that judgment are extracted below:

      “66. If from the impugned memoranda the event of being in service  and
      retiring subsequent to specified date is severed, all pensioners would
      be governed by the liberalised pension scheme. The pension  will  have
      to be recomputed in accordance with the provisions of the  liberalised
      pension  scheme  as  salaries  were  required  to  be  recomputed   in
      accordance with the recommendation of the  Third  Pay  Commission  but
      becoming operative from the specified date. It does  therefore  appear
      that  the  reading  down  of  impugned  memoranda  by   severing   the
      objectionable portion would not render the liberalised pension  scheme
      vague, unenforceable or unworkable.

      67. In reading down the  memoranda,  is  this  Court  legislating?  Of
      course 'not' When we delete basis of classification  as  violative  of
      Article 14, we merely  set  at  naught  the  unconstitutional  portion
      retaining the constitutional portion.

      68. We may now deal with the last submission of the  learned  Attorney
      General on the point. Said the learned Attorney-General that principle
      of severability cannot be applied to augment the class  and  to  adopt
      his words 'severance always cuts down the scope, never  enlarges  it'.
      We are not sure whether there is  any  principle  which  inhibits  the
      Court from striking down an unconstitutional  part  of  a  legislative
      action which may have the tendency to enlarge the width  and  coverage
      of the measure. Whenever classification is held  to  be  impermissible
      and the measure can  be  retained  by  removing  the  unconstitutional
      portion of classification, by striking down words of  limitation,  the
      resultant effect may be of enlarging the class. In such  a  situation,
      the Court can strike down the words of  limitation  in  an  enactment.
      That is what is called  reading  down  the  measure.  We  know  of  no
      principle that 'severance' limits the scope  of  legislation  and  can
      never enlarge it.”

      The basis of the practice of reading down was succinctly laid down  in
Commissioner of Sales Tax, Madhya Pradesh, Indore and Ors.  v.  Radhakrishan
and Ors.  (1979) 2 SCC 249 in the following words:
      “In considering the validity of a statute the presumption is in favour
      of its constitutionality and the burden is upon him who attacks it  to
      show that there has  been  a  clear  transgression  of  constitutional
      principles. For sustaining the presumption  of  constitutionality  the
      Court may take into consideration matters of common knowledge, matters
      of common report, the history of the times and may assume every  state
      of facts which can be conceived it must always be  presumed  that  the
      Legislature understands and correctly appreciates the need of its  own
      people and that discrimination, if any, is based on adequate  grounds.
      It is well settled that courts will be justified in giving  a  liberal
      interpretation  to  the  section  in  order  to  avoid  constitutional
      invalidity. These principles have given rise to rule of  reading  down
      the section if it becomes necessary to  uphold  the  validity  of  the

      In Minerva Mills Ltd. and Ors.  v.  Union  of  India  (UOI)  and  Ors.
(1980) 3 SCC 625, the Court identified the limitations upon the practice  of
reading down:
      “69. The learned Attorney General and the  learned  Solicitor  General
      strongly impressed upon us that Article 31C should be read down so  as
      to save it from the challenge of  unconstitutionality.  It  was  urged
      that it would be legitimate to read into that Article  the  intendment
      that only such laws  would  be  immunised  from  the  challenge  under
      Articles 14 and 19 as do not damage or destroy the basic structure  of
      the Constitution. The principle of reading down the  provisions  of  a
      law for the purpose of saving it from a  constitutional  challenge  is
      well-known. But we find it impossible to accept the contention of  the
      learned Counsel in this behalf because, to do so will involve a  gross
      distortion of the principle of reading down, depriving  that  doctrine
      of  its  only  or  true  rationale  when  words  of  width  are   used
      inadvertently. The device of reading down is not to be resorted to  in
      order to save the susceptibilities of the law makers,  nor  indeed  to
      imagine a law of one's liking to have been passed. One must  at  least
      take the Parliament at its word  when,  especially,  it  undertakes  a
      constitutional amendment.”

      This was further clarified in Delhi Transport  Corporation  v.  D.T.C.
Mazdoor Congress and  Ors.  1991  Supp  (1)  SCC  600.   In  his  concurring
opinion, Ray, J. observed:
      “On a proper consideration of the cases cited hereinbefore as well  as
      the observations of Seervai in his book 'Constitutional Law of  India'
      and also the meaning that has been given  in  the  Australian  Federal
      Constitutional Law by Coin Howard, it is clear and apparent that where
      any term has been used in the Act which per se  seems  to  be  without
      jurisdiction but can be read down in order to make it constitutionally
      valid by separating and excluding the part  which  is  invalid  or  by
      interpreting  the  word  in  such  a  fashion  in  order  to  make  it
      constitutionally valid and  within  jurisdiction  of  the  legislature
      which passed the said enactment by reading down the provisions of  the
      Act. This, however, does not under any circumstances mean  that  where
      the plain and literal meaning that follows from a bare reading of  the
      provisions of the Act, Rule or Regulation that it  confers  arbitrary,
      uncancalised, unbridled, unrestricted power to terminate the  services
      of a permanent employee without recording any reasons for the same and
      without adhering to the principles of  natural  justice  and  equality
      before the law as envisaged in Article 14 of the Constitution,  cannot
      be read down to save the said provision from constitutional invalidity
      by bringing or adding words in the said  legislation  such  as  saying
      that it implies that reasons for the order of termination have  to  be
      recorded. In  interpreting  the  provisions  of  an  Act,  it  is  not
      permissible where the plain language of the provision  gives  a  clear
      and unambiguous  meaning  can  be  interpreted  by  reading  down  and
      presuming certain expressions in order to save it from  constitutional

31.   From the above  noted  judgments,  the  following  principles  can  be
culled out:

(i)   The High Court and Supreme Court of India are empowered to declare  as
      void  any  law,  whether  enacted  prior  to  the  enactment  of   the
      Constitution or after. Such power can be exercised to  the  extent  of
      inconsistency with the Constitution/contravention of Part III.

(ii)  There is a presumption of constitutionality in  favour  of  all  laws,
      including pre-Constitutional laws as the Parliament, in  its  capacity
      as the representative of the people, is deemed to act for the  benefit
      of the people in light of their  needs  and  the  constraints  of  the

 iii) The doctrine of severability seeks to ensure that only  that  portion
      of the law which is unconstitutional is so declared and the remainder
      is saved. This doctrine should be applied keeping in mind the  scheme
      and purpose of the law and  the  intention  of  the  Legislature  and
      should be avoided where the two portions are inextricably mixed  with
      one another.

  iv) The court can resort to reading down a law in order to save  it  from
      being rendered unconstitutional. But while doing so, it cannot change
      the essence of the law and create a new law which in its  opinion  is
      more desirable.

32.   Applying the afore-stated principles to the case in hand, we deem  it
proper to observe that while the High Court and this Court are empowered to
review the constitutionality of Section 377 IPC and strike it down  to  the
extent of its inconsistency with the Constitution, self restraint  must  be
exercised  and  the  analysis  must  be  guided  by  the   presumption   of
constitutionality. After the  adoption  of  the  IPC  in  1950,  around  30
amendments have been made to the statute, the most  recent  being  in  2013
which specifically deals with sexual offences, a category to which  Section
377 IPC belongs. The 172nd Law Commission Report  specifically  recommended
deletion of that section and the issue has repeatedly come up  for  debate.
However, the Legislature has chosen not to amend the  law  or  revisit  it.
This shows that Parliament, which is undisputedly the  representative  body
of the people of India has not thought it proper to delete  the  provision.
Such a conclusion is further strengthened by  the  fact  that  despite  the
decision of the Union of India to not challenge in appeal the order of  the
Delhi High Court, the Parliament has not made any  amendment  in  the  law.
While this does not make the law immune from constitutional  challenge,  it
must nonetheless guide our understanding of  character,  scope,  ambit  and

33.   It is, therefore, apposite to say that unless a clear  constitutional
violation is proved, this Court is not  empowered  to  strike  down  a  law
merely by virtue of its falling  into  disuse  or  the  perception  of  the
society having changed as regards the legitimacy of  its  purpose  and  its

34.   We may now notice the relevant provisions of the IPC.

      “Section 375. Rape.-A man is said to commit "rape" who, except in  the
      case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a  woman  under
      circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions:-

      First.-Against her will.

      Secondly.-Without her consent.

      Thirdly.-With her consent, when  her  consent  has  been  obtained  by
      putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear  of  death
      or of hurt.

      Fourthly.-With her consent, when the man knows  that  he  is  not  her
      husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is
      another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.

      Fifthly.-With her consent, when, at the time of giving  such  consent,
      by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration
      by him personally or through another of any stupefying or  unwholesome
      substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences  of
      that to which she gives consent.

      Sixthly.-With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen  years
      of age.

      Explanation.-Penetration  is  sufficient  to  constitute  the   sexual
      intercourse necessary to the offence of rape.

      Exception.-Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not
      being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.

      376. Punishment for rape.--(1) Whoever, except in the  cases  provided
      for  by  sub-section  (2),  commits  rape  shall  be   punished   with
      imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be  less
      than seven years but which may be for life or for  a  term  which  may
      extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine unless the  woman
      raped is his own wife and is not under twelve years of age,  in  which
      case, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for
      a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both:

      Provided that the court may, for adequate and special  reasons  to  be
      mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence  of  imprisonment  for  a
      term of less than seven years.

      (2) Whoever,-
      (a) being a police officer commits rape-
      (i) within the limits of the police station to which he is  appointed;
      (ii) in the premises of any station house whether or not  situated  in
      the police station to which he is appointed; or
      (iii) on a woman in his custody or in the custody of a police  officer
      subordinate to him; or
      (b) being a public servant, takes advantage of his  official  position
      and commits rape on a woman in his custody as such public  servant  or
      in the custody of a public servant subordinate to him; or
      (c) being on the management or on the staff of a jail, remand home  or
      other place of custody established by or under any law  for  the  time
      being in force  or  of  a  women's  or  children's  institution  takes
      advantage of his official position and commits rape on any  inmate  of
      such jail, remand home, place or institution; or
      (d) being on the management or on  the  staff  of  a  hospital,  takes
      advantage of his official position and commits rape on a woman in that
      hospital; or
      (e) commits rape on a woman knowing her to be pregnant; or
      (f) commits rape on a woman when she is under twelve years of age; or
      (g) commits gang rape,

      shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a  term  which  shall
      not be less than ten years but which may be for life and shall also be
      liable to fine:
      Provided that the court may, for adequate and special  reasons  to  be
      mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment of either
      description for a term of less than ten years.

      Explanation 1.-Where a women's is raped by one or more in a  group  of
      persons acting in furtherance of their common intention, each  of  the
      persons shall be deemed to have committed gang rape within the meaning
      of this sub-section.

      Explanation  2.-"women's   or   children's   institution"   means   an
      institution, whether called and orphanage  or  a  home  for  neglected
      women or children or a widows' home or by any  other  name,  which  is
      established and maintained for the reception  and  care  of  women  or

      Explanation 3.-"hospital" means the  precincts  of  the  hospital  and
      includes the precincts  of  any  institution  for  the  reception  and
      treatment of persons during  convalescence  or  of  persons  requiring
      medical attention or rehabilitation.

      377. Unnatural offences.--Whoever voluntarily has  carnal  intercourse
      against the order of nature with any man, woman or  animal,  shall  be
      punished with imprisonment for life, or with  imprisonment  of  either
      description for a term which may extend to ten years, and  shall  also
      be liable to fine.

      Explanation.-Penetration  is  sufficient  to  constitute  the   carnal
      intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section.”

35.   Before proceeding further, we may also notice dictionary meanings  of
some words and expressions, which have bearing on this case.

      Buggery – a carnal copulation against nature; a man or a woman with  a
      brute beast, a man with a man, or man unnaturally with a  woman.  This
      term  is  often  used  interchangeably  with  “sodomy”.  (Black’s  Law
      Dictionary 6th Edn. 1990)

      Carnal – Pertaining to  the  body,  its  passions  and  its  appetites
      animal; fleshy; sensual; impure; sexual. People v. Battilana, 52  Cal.
      App.2d 685, 126 P.2d 923, 928 (Black’s Law Dictionary 6th edn. 1990)

      Carnal knowledge – Coitus; copulation; the act of a man having  sexual
      bodily connections with a woman; sexual intercourse. Carnal  knowledge
      of a child is unlawful sexual intercourse with a  female  child  under
      the age of consent. It is a statutory crime, usually  a  felony.  Such
      offense is popularly known as “statutory rape”. While  penetration  is
      an essential element, there is “carnal  knowledge”  if  there  is  the
      slightest penetration of the sexual organ of the female by the  sexual
      organ of the male. State v. Cross, 2000  S.E.2d  27,  29.  It  is  not
      necessary that the vagina be entered or that the  hymen  be  ruptured;
      the entering of the vulva or labia is sufficient. De Armond v.  State,
      Okl. Cr., 285 P.2d 236. (Black’s Law Dictionary 6th edn. 1990)

      Nature – (1) A fundamental quality that distinguishes one  thing  from
      another; the essence of something.  (2)  Something  pure  or  true  as
      distinguished from something artificial or contrived.  (3)  The  basic
      instincts or impulses of someone or something (Black’s Law  Dictionary
      9th edn).

Legislative History Of Section 377
36.   The first records of sodomy as a crime at Common Law in  England  were
chronicled in the Fleta, 1290, and later in the Britton,  1300.  Both  texts
prescribed that sodomites should be burnt alive. Such  offences  were  dealt
with by the ecclesiastical Courts.
      The Buggery Act 1533, formally an Act for the punishment of  the  vice
of Buggerie (25 Hen. 8 c. 6), was an Act of the Parliament of  England  that
was passed during the reign of Henry VIII. It was the country's first  civil
sodomy law. The Act defined buggery as an unnatural sexual act  against  the
will of God and man and prescribed capital punishment for commission of  the
offence. This Act was later defined by  the  Courts  to  include  only  anal
penetration and bestiality. The Act remained in force until  its  repeal  in
      The Buggery Act of 1533 was re-enacted in 1563 by Queen  Elizabeth  I,
after which it became the charter  for  the  subsequent  criminalisation  of
sodomy in the British Colonies. Oral-genital sexual acts were  removed  from
the definition of buggery in 1817.
      The Act was repealed by Section 1 of the Offences against  the  Person
Act 1828 (9 Geo.4 c.31) and by Section 125 of the Criminal Law  (India)  Act
1828 (c.74). It was replaced by Section  15  of  the  Offences  against  the
Person Act 1828, and ection 63 of the Criminal Law (India) Act  1828,  which
provided that buggery would continue to be a capital offence.
      With the enactment  of  the  Offences  against  the  Person  Act  1861
buggery was no longer a  capital  offence  in  England  and  Wales.  It  was
punished with imprisonment from 10 years to life.

37.   The offence of sodomy was introduced in  India  on  25.7.1828  through
the Act for Improving the Administration of Criminal  Justice  in  the  East
Indies (9.George.IV).
      Chapter LXXIV Clause LXIII “Sodomy” – “And it be enacted,  that  every
person convicted of the abominable crime of buggery  committed  with  either
mankind or with any animal, shall suffer death as a felon”.
      In 1837, a Draft Penal Code was prepared which included:  Clauses  361
– “Whoever intending to gratify unnatural lust,  touches  for  that  purpose
any person or any animal or is by his own consent touched by any person  for
the  purpose  of  gratifying  unnatural  lust,  shall   be   punished   with
imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend  to  fourteen
years, and must not be less than two  years”;  and  Clause  362  -  “Whoever
intending to gratify unnatural lust, touches for  that  purpose  any  person
without that person’s free and intelligent consent, shall be  punished  with
imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to  life  and
must not be less than seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
      In Note M of the Introductory Report of Lord  Macaulay  to  the  Draft
Code these clauses were left to his  Lordship  in  Council  without  comment
observing that:
      “Clauses 361 and 362 relate to an odious class of offences  respecting
      which it is desirable that as little as possible  be  said.  We  leave
      without comment to the judgment of his Lordship  in  Council  the  two
      Clauses which we have provided for these offences. We are unwilling to
      insert, either in the text, or in the notes, anything which could have
      given rise to public discussion on this revolting subject; as  we  are
      decidedly of the opinion that the injury which would be  done  to  the
      morals of the  community  by  such  discussion  would  far  more  than
      compensate for any benefits which might be  derived  from  legislative
      measures framed with the greatest precision.”

      [Note M on Offences Against the Body in Penal Code of 1837 – Report of
      the Indian Law Commission on the Penal Code, October 14, 1837.]

      However, in Report of the Commissioner’s Vol XXVIII  it  was  observed
that the clauses and the absence of comments had created  “a  most  improper
ambiguity”. Some members noted that the existing law on the subject is  dead
letter and also that the said offence had been omitted in  revised  statutes
of Massachusetts and does not appear in the French  Penal  Code  unless  the
sufferer is below 10 years of age.
      “451. The Law Commissioners observe that Clauses 361 and 362 relate to
      an odious class of offences, respecting which it is desirable that  as
      little as possible should said. They therefore  leave  the  provisions
      proposed therein without comment to  the  judgment  of  the  governor-
      General in Council. Mr A.D. Campbell in concurrence  with  Mr.  Blane,
      censures the false delicacy which has in their opinion caused  a  most
      improper ambiguity in these clauses, leaving it uncertain whether they
      apply to  the  mere  indecent  liberties,  or  extend  to  the  actual
      commission of an offence of the nature indicated.

      452. It appears to us clear enough, that it was meant to strike at the
      root of the offence by making the first act tending to  it  liable  to
      the same punishment, if the Judge shall deem it proper, as the offence
      actually accomplished. This is a new principle, and it would have been
      better if the Commissioners had explained for what reason they adopted
      it, in respect to the offences here  contemplated  in  particular.  We
      conceive that there is a very weighty  objection  to  the  clauses  in
      question, in the opening which they will afford to calumny, if for  an
      act so slight as may come within the meaning of the word, “touches”, a
      man may be exposed to such a revolting charge and suffer the  ignominy
      of a public trial upon it.

      453. Colonel Sleeman advises  the  omission  of  both  these  clauses,
      deeming it most expedient to leave offences against nature silently to
      the odium of society. It may give weight to this suggestion to  remark
      that the existing law on the subject  is  almost  a  dead  letter,  as
      appears from the fact that in three years only six cases  came  before
      the Nizamut Adawlut at Calcutta, although it is but true, we fear that
      the frequency of the abominable offence in question “remains” as Mr AD
      Campbell expresses it, “a horrid stain upon the land.

      454. Mr. Livingstone, we observe, makes no mention of offences of this
      nature in his code for Louisiana, and they are omitted in the  revised
      statutes of Massachusetts, of which the Chapter “of  offences  against
      the Lives and Persons of Individuals” is appended to the 2d Report  of
      the English Criminal Law Commissioners.  By  the  French  Penal  Code,
      offences of this description do not come within the scope of the  law,
      unless they are effected or attempted by violence, except the sufferer
      be under the age of ten years.”

      [Comment of the Law Commissioners on clauses 361 and 362 in Report  on
      the Indian Penal Code,1848.]

38.   The IPC along with Section 377 as it exists today was  passed  by  the
Legislative Council and the Governor General assented to  it  on  6.10.1860.
The understating of acts which fall within the  ambit  of  Section  377  has
changed from non-procreative (Khanu  v.  Emperor)  to  imitative  of  sexual
intercourse  (Lohana  Vasantlal  v.  State  AIR  1968  Guj  352)  to  sexual
perversity (Fazal Rab v. State of Bihar AIR 1963, Mihir v. Orissa  1991  Cri
LJ 488).  This would be illustrated by the following judgments:
R. V. Jacobs (1817), Russ. & Ry. 331, C. C. R. -The offence  of  Sodomy  can
only be committed per anum.

Govindarajula In re. (1886) 1 Weir 382-Inserting  the  penis  in  the  mouth
would not amount to an offence under Section 377 IPC.
Khanu v. Emperor AIR 1925 Sind 286.
      "The principal point in this case  is  whether  the  accused  (who  is
      clearly guilty of having committed the sin of Gomorrah coitus per  os)
      with  a  certain  little  child,  the  innocent  accomplice   of   his
      abomination, has thereby  committed  an  offence  under  Section  377,
      Indian Penal Code.

      Section 377 punishes  certain  persons  who  have  carnal  intercourse
      against the order of nature with inter alia human beings. Is  the  act
      here committed one of carnal intercourse? If so, it is clearly against
      the order of nature, because the natural object of carnal  intercourse
      is that there should be the possibility of conception of human  beings
      which in the case of coitus per os is impossible".

      "Intercourse may be defined as mutual frequent action  by  members  of
      independent  organisation.  Commercial   intercourse   is   thereafter
      referred to; emphasis is made on the reciprocity".

      "By metaphor the  word  'intercourse'  like  the  word  'commerce'  is
      applied to the relations  of  the  sexes.  Here  also  'there  is  the
      temporary  visitation  of  one  organism  by   a   member   of   other
      organisation, for certain' clearly defined and  limited  objects.  The
      primary object of the visiting organization is 'to obtain euphoria  by
      means of a detent of the nerves consequent on the sexual crisis'."
      "But there is no intercourse unless the visiting member  is  enveloped
      at least partially by the visited organism, for  intercourse  connotes
      reciprocity. Looking at the question in this way it  would  seem  that
      sin of Gomorrah is no less carnal intercourse than the sin of sodomy".

      "it is to be remembered that  the  Penal  Code  does  not,  except  in
      Section 377, render abnormal sexual vice punishable at all. In England
      indecent assaults are punishable very severely. It  is  possible  that
      under the Penal Code, some cases  might  be  met  by  prosecuting  the
      offender for simple assault, but that is a compoundable offence and in
      any case the patient could in no way be punished. It is to be supposed
      that the Legislature intended that a Tegellinus should  carry  on  his
      nefarious profession  perhaps  vitiating  and  depraving  hundreds  of
      children with perfect immunity?

      I doubt not therefore, that cotius per os is punishable under  Section
      377, Indian Penal Code."

Khandu v. Emperor 35 Cri LJ 1096 : (AIR 1934  Lah  261)-"Carnal  intercourse
with a bullock  through  nose  is  an  unnatural  offence  punishable  under
Section 377, Penal Code."

Lohana Vasantlal Devchand v. The State AIR 1968 Guj 252.

      In this case, there were three accused. Accused 1 and  2  had  already
committed the offence, in question, which was carnal intercourse  per  anus,
of the victim boy. The boy began to get a  lot  of  pain  and  consequently,
accused 2 could not succeed having that act. He  therefore  voluntarily  did
the act in question by putting his male organ in the mouth of  the  boy  and
there was also seminal discharge and the  boy  had  to  vomit  it  out.  The
question that  arose  for  consideration  therein  was  as  to  whether  the
insertion of the male organ by the second accused into the  orifice  of  the
mouth of the boy amounted to an offence under Section 377 IPC.

      The act was the actual replacement  of  desire  of  coitus  and  would
amount to an offence punishable under Section 377. There  was  an  entry  of
male penis in the orifice  of  the  mouth  of  the  victim.  There  was  the
enveloping of a visiting member by the  visited  organism.  There  was  thus
reciprocity; intercourse connotes reciprocity. It could, therefore, be  said
that the act in question amounted to an  offence  punishable  under  Section

      What was sought to be conveyed by the explanation was that  even  mere
penetration would be sufficient to constitute carnal intercourse,  necessary
to the offence referred to in Section  377.  Seminal  discharge,  i.e.,  the
full act of intercourse was not the essential ingredient  to  constitute  an
offence in question.

      It is true that the theory that the sexual intercourse is  only  meant
for the purpose of conception is an out-dated theory. But, at the same  time
it could be said without any hesitation of contradiction  that  the  orifice
of  mouth  is  not,  according  to  nature,  meant  for  sexual  or   carnal
intercourse. Viewing from that aspect, it could be said  that  this  act  of
putting a  male-organ  in  the  mouth  of  a  victim  for  the  purposes  of
satisfying sexual appetite would be an act  of  carnal  intercourse  against
the order of nature.

In State of Kerala v. Kundumkara Govindan and Anr., 1969  Cri  LJ  818,  the
Kerala High Court observed:

      “18. Even if I am to hold that  there  was  no  penetration  into  the
      vagina and the sexual acts were committed only between the  thighs,  I
      do not think that the respondents can escape conviction under  Section
      377 of the Penal Code. The counsel of  the  respondents  contends  (in
      this argument the Public Prosecutor also supports him) that sexual act
      between the thighs is  not  intercourse.  The  argument  is  that  for
      intercourse there must be encirclement of the male organ by the  organ
      visited; and that in the case of sexual act between the thighs,  there
      is no possibility of penetration.

      19. The word 'intercourse' means 'sexual connection'  (Concise  Oxford
      Dictionary). In Khanu v. Emperor AIR 1925 Sind 286 the meaning of  the
      word 'intercourse' has been considered:

      Intercourse may be defined as mutual frequent  action  by  members  of
      independent organization.

      Then  commercial  intercourse,  social  intercourse,  etc.  have  been
      considered; and then appears:

      By a metaphor the word intercourse, like the word commerce, is applied
      to the relations of the  sexes.  Here  also  there  is  the  temporary
      visitation of one organism by a member of the other organization,  for
      certain clearly defined and limited objects. The primary object of the
      visiting organization is to obtain euphoria by means of  a  detent  of
      the  nerves  consequent  on  the  sexual  crisis.  But  there  is   no
      intercourse unless the visiting member is enveloped at least partially
      by the visited organism, for intercourse connotes reciprocity.

      Therefore, to decide whether there is intercourse or not, what  is  to
      be considered is whether the visiting  organ  is  enveloped  at  least
      partially by the visited organism. In intercourse between the  thighs,
      the visiting male  organ  is  enveloped  at  least  partially  by  the
      organism visited, the thighs: the thighs are kept together and tight.

      20. Then about penetration. The word 'penetrate' means in the  concise
      Oxford Dictionary 'find access into or through,  pass  through.'  When
      the male organ is inserted between the thighs kept together and tight,
      is there no penetration? The word 'insert' means place, fit,  thrust.'
      Therefore, if the male organ is 'inserted'  or  'thrust'  between  the
      thighs, there is 'penetration' to constitute unnatural offence.

      21. Unnatural offence is defined in Section 377  of  the  Penal  Code;
      whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature
      with any man, woman or animal commits unnatural offence.  The  act  of
      committing  intercourse  between  the  thighs  is  carnal  intercourse
      against the order  of  nature.  Therefore  committing  intercourse  by
      inserting the male organ between the thighs of another is an unnatural
      offence. In this connection, it may be noted that the act  in  Section
      376 is "sexual intercourse" and the  act  in  Section  377  is  carnal
      intercourse against the order of nature."

      22. The position in English law on this question has been  brought  to
      my notice. The old decision of Rex v. Samuel Jacobs (1817) Russ  &  Ry
      381 CCE lays down that penetration through the mouth does  not  amount
      to the offence of sodomy under  English  law.  The  counsel  therefore
      argues that sexual intercourse between the thighs cannot  also  be  an
      offence under Section 377 of the Penal Code. In Sirkar v. Gula Mythien
      Pillai Chaithu Maho. mathu 1908 TLR Vol XIV Appendix 43 a  Full  Bench
      of the Travancore High Court held that having connection with a person
      in the mouth was an offence under Section 377 of the Penal Code. In  a
      short judgment, the learned Judges held that  it  was  unnecessary  to
      refer to English Statute Law and English text  books  which  proceeded
      upon an interpretation of the words sodomy,  buggery  and  bestiality;
      and that the words used in the Penal Code were very aim pie  and  died
      enough to include all acts against the order of nature. My view on the
      question is also that the words of Section 377  are  simple  and  wide
      enough to include any carnal intercourse again tithe order  of  nature
      within its ambit. Committing intercourse between the thighs of another
      is carnal intercourse against the order of nature.”

In Fazal Rab Choudhary v. State of Bihar (1982) 3 SCC  9  -  While  reducing
the sentence of the appellant who was  convicted  for  having  committed  an
offence under Section 377 IPC upon a young boy who had come to his house  to
take a syringe, the Court observed:

      “3. The offence is one under Section 377 I.P.C., which implies  sexual
      perversity. No force appears to have been used. Neither the notions of
      permissive society nor the fact that in some  countries  homosexuality
      has ceased to be an offence has influenced our  thinking.  However  in
      judging the  Depravity  of  the  action  for  determining  quantum  of
      sentence, all aspects of the matter must be  kept  in  view.  We  feel
      there is some scope for modification of sentence. Having examined  all
      the relevant aspects bearing on the question of nature of offence  and
      quantum of sentence, we reduce the substantive sentence to R.I. for  6
      months. To the extent of this modification in the sentence, the appeal
      is allowed.”

In Kedar Nath S/o Bhagchand v. State of Rajasthan, 1985  (2)  WLN  560,  the
Rajasthan High Court observed:
      “19. The report (Ex. P. 24) shows that the rectal swear  was  positive
      for spermatozoa, which resembled with human-spermatozoa. The  presence
      of the human-spermatozoa in the rectum of the deceased has  been  held
      to be a definite proof of fact that the boy has been subjected to  the
      carnal intercourse against the course of nature. We are  in  agreement
      with the above conclusion arrived at by the learned trial Court as, in
      the facts and  circumstances  of  the  case,  the  presence  of  human
      spermatozoa in the rectum of the deceased who was a young  boy,  leads
      to only one conclusion that he was subjected to the carnal intercourse
      against the course of nature.”

In Calvin Francis v. Orissa 1992 (2)  Crimes  455,  the  Orissa  High  Court
outlined a case in which a man inserted his genital organ into the mouth  of
a 6 year old girl and observed:

      “8. In order to attract culpability under Section 377, IPC, it has  to
      be established that (i) the accused had carnal intercourse  with  man,
      woman or animal, (ii)  such  intercourse  was  against  the  order  of
      nature, (iii) the act by the accused was done  voluntarily;  and  (iv)
      there was penetration. Carnal intercourse against the order of  nature
      is the  gist  of  the  offence  in  Section  377.  By  virtue  of  the
      Explanation to the Section, it  is  necessary  to  prove  penetration,
      however little,  to  constitute  the  carnal  intercourse.  Under  the
      English law, to constitute a similar offence the act must be  in  that
      part where sodomy is usually committed. According  to  that  law,  the
      unnatural carnal intercourse with a human being generally consists  in
      penetration per anus. In R. v. Jacobs : (1817)  B&R  331  CCR  and  in
      Govindarajulu in re (1886) 1 Weir 382, it was held that the act  in  a
      child's mouth does not constitute the offence. But in Khanu v. Emperor
      : AIR 1925 sind 286 it was held that coitus per os is punishable under
      the Section.

      9. In terms of  Section  377,  IPC,  whoever  voluntarily  has  carnal
      intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal,
      commits the offence. Words used are quite  comprehensive  and  an  act
      like putting male organ into victim's mouth which  was  an  initiative
      act of sexual intercourse for the purpose of his satisfying the sexual
      appetite, would be an act punishable under Section 377, IPC.

      10. In Corpus Juris Secundum, Volume 81, op.  368-370,  the  following
      comments have been made.

      "Words used in statutory definitions of the crime of Sodomy have  been
      frequently construed as more comprehensive and as not depending on, or
      limited by the common law definition of the crime,  at  least  as  not
      dependent on the narrower definition of sodomy afforded by some of the
      common law authorities and are generally interpreted to include within
      their provisions  all  acts  of  unnatural  copulation,  whether  with
      mankind or beast. Other authorities, however, have  taken  a  contrary
      view, holding that the words used in the statute are  limited  by  the
      common law definition of the crime where  the  words  of  the  statute
      themselves are not explicit as to what shall be included.

      It is competent for the legislature  to  declare  that  the  doing  of
      certain acts shall constitute the  crime  against  nature  even-though
      they would not have constituted that crime  at  common  law,  and  the
      statutory crime against nature  is  not  necessarily  limited  to  the
      common law crime of sodomy, but  in  imposing  a  punishment  for  the
      common law crime it is not necessary for the legislature to specify in
      the statute the particular acts which shall constitute the crime.

      Under statutes providing that whoever has  carnal  copulation  with  a
      beast, or in any opening  of  the  body,  except  sexual  parts,  with
      another being, shall be guilty of sodomy, it has been  held  that  the
      act of cunnilingus is not a crime, but that taking the male sex  organ
      into the mouth is sodomy. On the other hand, under such a  statute  it
      has been held that the crime of sodomy cannot be committed unless  the
      sexual organ of accused is involved, but there is  also  authority  to
      the contrary. Under a statute defining sodomy as the carnal  knowledge
      and connection against the order of nature by man with man, or in  the
      same unnatural manner with woman, it has  been  held  that  the  crime
      cannot be committed by woman with woman.

      A statute providing that any  person  who  shall  commit  any  act  or
      practice of  sexual  perversity,  either  with  mankind  or  beast  on
      conviction shall be punished, is not limited  to  instances  involving
      carnal copulation, but is restricted to cases involving the sex  organ
      of at least one of the parties. The term 'sexual perversity' does  not
      refer to every physical contact by a male with the body of the  female
      with intent to  cause  sexual  satisfaction  to  the  actor,  but  the
      condemnation of the statute is limited to unnatural conduct  performed
      for the purpose of accomplish; abnormal sexual  satisfaction  for  the
      actor. Under a statute providing that any person participating in  the
      act or copulating the mouth of one person with  the  sexual  organ  of
      another is guilty of the offence a person is guilty of  violating  the
      statute when he has placed his mouth on the genital organ of  another,
      and the offence may be committed by two persons of opposite sex.

      11. Though there is no statutory definition of 'sodomy',  Section  377
      is comprehensive to engulf any act like the alleged act. View  similar
      to mine was expressed in Lohana Vasantlal Devchand  and  Ors.  v.  The
      State : AIR 1963 Guj 252 and in Khanu's case (supra). The  orifice  of
      the mouth is not, according to nature,  meant  for  sexual  or  carnal
      intercourse. 'Intercourse' may be defined as mutual frequent action by
      members  of  independent  organisation.  Commercial   intercourse   is
      therefore referred  to;  emphasis  is  made  on  the  reciprocity.  By
      metaphor the word 'intercourse' like the word 'commerce' is applied to
      the  relations  of  the  sexes.  Here  also  there  is  the  temporary
      visitation of one organism by a member of the other organisation,  for
      certain clearly defined and limited objects. The primary object of the
      visiting organisation is to obtain euphoria by means of  a  detent  of
      the  nerves  consequent  on  the  sexual  crisis.  But  there  is   no
      intercourse unless the visiting member is enveloped at least partially
      by the visited organism, for intercourse connotes reciprocity, and  in
      this view it would seem  that  sin  of  Gomorrah  is  no  less  carnal
      intercourse  than  the  sin  of  sodomy.  These  aspects   have   been
      illuminatingly highlighted in Khanu's case (supra).

      12. In Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, the word 'buggery' is said to  be
      synonymous with sodomy. In K.  J.  Ayer's  Manual  of  Law  Terms  and
      Phrases (as Judicially Expounded), the meaning of the word 'sodomy' is
      stated to be a carnal knowledge committed against the order of  Nature
      by a man with a man or in the same unnatural manner with a  woman,  or
      by a man or woman in any manner with a beast. This is called  buggery.
      As observed in Lohan Vasantlal Devchand's case (supra), sodomy will be
      a species and unnatural offence will be a generis. In that view of the
      matter, there can be no scope for any doubt that the act complained of
      in punishable under Sec. 377, IPC.”

      Similar views were expressed in State v. Bachmiya Musamiya,  1999  (3)
Guj LR 2456 and Orissa High Court in Mihir  alias  Bhikari  Charan  Sahu  v.
State 1992 Cri LJ 488.  However, from these cases  no uniform  test  can  be
culled out to classify acts as “carnal  intercourse  against  the  order  of
nature”. In our opinion the acts which fall within the ambit of the  section
can  only  be  determined  with  reference  to  the  act  itself   and   the
circumstances in which it is executed. All the  aforementioned  cases  refer
to non consensual and markedly coercive situations and the keenness  of  the
court in bringing justice to the victims who were either women  or  children
cannot be discounted while analyzing the manner in  which  the  section  has
been interpreted. We are  apprehensive  of  whether  the  Court  would  rule
similarly in a case of proved consensual intercourse between  adults.  Hence
it is difficult to prepare a list of acts which  would  be  covered  by  the
section. Nonetheless in light of the plain meaning and  legislative  history
of the section, we hold that Section 377 IPC  would  apply  irrespective  of
age and consent. It is relevant to mention here that  the  Section  377  IPC
does not criminalize a particular people  or  identity  or  orientation.  It
merely identifies certain  acts  which  if  committed  would  constitute  an
offence. Such a prohibition regulates sexual conduct  regardless  of  gender
identity and orientation.
39.   We shall now  consider  the  question  whether  the  High  Court  was
justified in entertaining challenge to Section 377  IPC  despite  the  fact
that respondent No.1  had  not  laid  factual  foundation  to  support  its
challenge.  This issue deserves to be prefaced by  consideration  of   some
precedents.  In Southern Petrochemical Industries v. Electricity  Inspector
(2007) 5  SCC  447,  this  Court  considered  challenge  to  the  T.N.  Tax
Consumption or Sale of Electricity  Act,  2003.   While  dealing  with  the
question whether  the  2003  Act  was  violative  of  the  equality  clause
enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, this Court made the  following

      “In absence of necessary pleadings and grounds taken before  the  High
      Court, we are not in a position to  agree  with  the  learned  counsel
      appearing on behalf of the appellants that only because Section 13  of
      the repealed Act is inconsistent with Section 14 of the 2003 Act,  the
      same would be arbitrary by reason of being  discriminatory  in  nature
      and ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution of India on the premise
      that charging section provides for levy of tax on sale and consumption
      of electrical energy, while the exemption provision purports  to  give
      power to exempt tax on “electricity sold for consumption” and makes no
      corresponding provision for exemption of tax on electrical energy self-
      generated and consumed.”

      In Seema Silk and Sarees v. Directorate of Enforcement  (2008) 5  SCC
580, this Court considered challenge to  Sections  18(2)  and  (3)  of  the
Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973, referred to paragraphs 69, 70 and 74
of the Southern Petrochemical Industries v. Electricity  Inspector  (supra)
and observed:

      “In absence of such factual foundation having been pleaded, we are  of
      the opinion that no case has been made  out  for  declaring  the  said
      provision ultra vires the Constitution of India.”

40.   The writ petition filed by  respondent  No.1  was  singularly  laconic
inasmuch as except giving brief detail of the work being done by it for  HIV
prevention targeting MSM community,  it  miserably  failed  to  furnish  the
particulars of the incidents of discriminatory  attitude  exhibited  by  the
State agencies towards sexual minorities and consequential denial  of  basic
human  rights  to  them.  Respondent  No.1  has  also  not   furnished   the
particulars of the cases involving harassment and assault  from  public  and
public authorities to sexual minorities. Only in the affidavit filed  before
this Court  on  behalf  of  the  Ministry  of  Health  and  Family  Welfare,
Department  of  AIDS  Control  it  has  been  averred  that  estimated   HIV
prevalence among FSW (female sex workers) is 4.60% to 4.94%, among MSM  (men
who have sex with men) is 6.54% to 7.23% and IDU (injecting drug  users)  is
9.42% to 10.30%. The total population of MSM as in 2006 was estimated to  be
25,00,000 and 10% of them are at risk of HIV. The  State-wise  break  up  of
estimated size of high risk men who have sex with  men  has  been  given  in
paragraphs 13 and 14 of the  affidavit.  In  paragraph  19,  the  State-wise
details of total  adult  population,  estimated  adult  HIV  prevalence  and
estimated number of HIV infections as in 2009 has been given. These  details
are wholly insufficient for recording  a  finding  that  homosexuals,  gays,
etc., are being subjected to discriminatory treatment  either  by  State  or
its agencies or the society.
41.   The question whether a particular classification is  unconstitutional
was considered in Re: Special Courts Bill, 1978 (1979) 1 SCC 380.  Speaking
for majority of the Constitution Bench, Chandrachud, CJ, referred to  large
number of precedents relating to the scope  of  Article  14  and  concluded
several propositions including the following:

      “1. The first part of Article 14, which was  adopted  from  the  Irish
      Constitution, is a declaration of equality of the civil rights of  all
      persons  within  the  territories  of  India.  It  enshrines  a  basic
      principle of republicanism. The second part, which is a  corollary  of
      the first and is based on the last clause of the first section of  the
      Fourteenth Amendment of the American Constitution, enjoins that  equal
      protection shall be secured to all such persons in  the  enjoyment  of
      their rights and liberties without discrimination of favourtism. It is
      a pledge of the protection of equal laws, that is, laws  that  operate
      alike on all persons under like circumstances.

      2. The State, in the  exercise  of  its  governmental  power,  has  of
      necessity to make laws operating differently on  different  groups  or
      classes of persons within its territory to attain particular  ends  in
      giving effect to its policies, and it must possess  for  that  purpose
      large powers of distinguishing and classifying persons or things to be
      subjected to such laws.

      3. The Constitutional command to the State to afford equal  protection
      of  its  laws  sets  a  goal  not  attainable  by  the  invention  and
      application of a precise formula. Therefore, classification  need  not
      be constituted by an exact or scientific  exclusion  or  inclusion  of
      persons or things. The Courts should not insist on delusive  exactness
      or  apply  doctrinaire  tests  for   determining   the   validity   of
      classification in any given case. Classification is justified if it is
      not palpably arbitrary.

      4. The principle underlying the guarantee of Article 14  is  not  that
      the same rules of law should be applicable to all persons  within  the
      Indian Territory or that the same remedies should be made available to
      them irrespective of differences of circumstances. It only means  that
      all persons similarly circumstanced shall be  treated  alike  both  in
      privileges conferred and liabilities imposed. Equal laws would have to
      be applied to all in the  same  situation,  and  there  should  be  no
      discrimination between one  person  and  another  if  as  regards  the
      subject-matter of the legislation their position is substantially  the

      5. By the process of  classification,  the  State  has  the  power  of
      determining who  should  be  regarded  as  a  class  for  purposes  of
      legislation and in relation to a law enacted on a particular  subject.
      This power, no doubt,  in  some  degree  is  likely  to  produce  some
      inequality; but if a law deals with the liberties of a number of well-
      defined classes, it is not open to  the  charge  of  denial  of  equal
      protection on the ground that it has no application to other  persons.
      Classification  thus  means  segregation  in  classes  which  have   a
      systematic  relation,  usually  found   in   common   properties   and
      characteristics. It postulates a rational  basis  and  does  not  mean
      herding together of certain persons and classes arbitrarily.

      6. The law can make and set apart the classes according to  the  needs
      and exigencies of the society and as suggested by experience.  It  can
      recognise even degree of evil, but the classification should never  be
      arbitrary, artificial or evasive.

      7. The classification must not be arbitrary but must be rational, that
      is  to  say,  it  must  not  only  be  based  on  some  qualities   or
      characteristics which are to be  found  in  all  the  persons  grouped
      together and not in others who are left out  but  those  qualities  or
      characteristics must have a reasonable relation to the object  of  the
      legislation. In order  to  pass  the  test,  two  conditions  must  be
      fulfilled, namely, (1) that the classification must be founded  on  an
      intelligible differentia which distinguishes those  that  are  grouped
      together from others and (2) that differentia  must  have  a  rational
      relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act.

      8. The differentia which is the basis of the  classification  and  the
      object of the Act are distinct things and what is  necessary  is  that
      there must be a nexus between them. In short, while Article 14 forbids
      class discrimination by conferring privileges or imposing  liabilities
      upon persons arbitrarily selected out  of  a  large  number  of  other
      persons similarly situated in relation to the privileges sought to  be
      conferred or the liabilities proposed  to  be  imposed,  it  does  not
      forbid classification for the purpose of  legislation,  provided  such
      classification is not arbitrary in the sense above mentioned.

      9. If the legislative policy is clear and definite and as an effective
      method of carrying out that policy  a  discretion  is  vested  by  the
      statute upon a body of administrators or officers  to  make  selective
      application of the law to certain classes or groups  of  persons,  the
      statute itself cannot  be  condemned  as  a  piece  of  discriminatory
      legislation. In such cases, the power  given  to  the  executive  body
      would  import  a  duty  on  it  to  classify  the  subject-matter   of
      legislation in accordance with the objective indicated in the statute.
      If the administrative body proceeds to classify persons or things on a
      basis  which  has  no  rational  relation  to  the  objective  of  the
      legislature, its action can be annulled as offending against the equal
      protection clause. On the other hand, if the statute itself  does  not
      disclose a definite policy or objective and it  confers  authority  on
      another to make selection at its pleasure, the statute would  be  held
      on the face of it to be discriminatory, irrespective  of  the  way  in
      which it is applied.

      10. Whether a law conferring discretionary powers on an administrative
      authority is constitutionally valid or not should not be determined on
      the assumption that such authority will act in an arbitrary manner  in
      exercising the discretion committed to it. Abuse of power given by law
      does occur; but the validity of the law cannot be contested because of
      such  an  apprehension.  Discretionary  power  is  not  necessarily  a
      discriminatory power.

      11. Classification necessarily implies the making of a distinction  or
      discrimination between  persons  classified  and  those  who  are  not
      members of that class. It is the essence of a classification that upon
      the class are cast duties and burdens  different  from  those  resting
      upon the general public. Indeed, the very idea  of  classification  is
      that of inequality, so that it goes without saying that the mere  fact
      of inequality in no manner determines the matter of constitutionality.

      12. Whether an enactment providing for special procedure for the trial
      of certain offences is or  is  not  discriminatory  and  violative  of
      Article 14 must be determined in  each  case  as  it  arises,  for  no
      general rule applicable to all  cases  can  safely  be  laid  down.  A
      practical assessment of the operation of the  law  in  the  particular
      circumstances is necessary.

      13. A rule of procedure laid down by law  comes  as  much  within  the
      purview of Article 14 as  any  rule  of  substantive  law  and  it  is
      necessary that all litigants, who are similarly situated, are able  to
      avail themselves of the same procedural  rights  for  relief  and  for
      defence with like protection and without discrimination.”

42.   Those who indulge in carnal intercourse in  the  ordinary  course  and
those who  indulge  in  carnal  intercourse  against  the  order  of  nature
constitute different classes and the people falling in  the  later  category
cannot claim that Section 377 suffers from the  vice  of  arbitrariness  and
irrational classification. What Section 377 does is  merely  to  define  the
particular offence and prescribe  punishment  for  the  same  which  can  be
awarded if in the trial conducted in accordance with the provisions  of  the
Code of Criminal Procedure and other statutes of the same family the  person
is found guilty. Therefore, the  High  Court  was  not  right  in  declaring
Section 377 IPC ultra vires Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.
43.   While reading down Section 377 IPC, the Division  Bench  of  the  High
Court overlooked that a  miniscule  fraction  of  the  country’s  population
constitute lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders and in last  more  than
150 years less than 200 persons have been prosecuted (as  per  the  reported
orders) for committing offence under Section 377  IPC  and  this  cannot  be
made sound basis for declaring that section ultra vires  the  provisions  of
Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.
44.   The vagueness and arbitrariness go to the root of a provision and  may
render  it  unconstitutional,  making  its  implementation   a   matter   of
unfettered discretion. This is especially  so  in  case  of  penal  statues.
However while analyzing a provision the vagaries of language must  be  borne
in mind and prior application of the law must be  considered.  In  A.K.  Roy
and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. (1982) 1 SCC 271, a  Constitution  Bench
observed as follows:
      “67. The requirement that crimes  must  be  defined  with  appropriate
      definiteness is regarded as a fundamental concept in criminal law  and
      must now be regarded as a pervading theme of  our  Constitution  since
      the decision in Maneka Gandhi  [1978]  2  SCR  621  .  The  underlying
      principle is that every person is entitled to be informed as  to  what
      the State commands or forbids and that  the  life  and  liberty  of  a
      person cannot be put in peril on an ambiguity. However,  even  in  the
      domain of criminal law, the processes  of  which  can  result  in  the
      taking away of life itself,  no  more  than  a  reasonable  degree  of
      certainty has to be accepted as a fact. Neither the criminal  law  nor
      the Constitution requires the application of impossible standards  and
      therefore, what is expected is that  the  language  of  the  law  must
      contain an adequate warning of the conduct which may fall  within  the
      prescribed area, when measured by common  understanding.  In  criminal
      law, the legislature frequently uses  vague  expressions  like  'bring
      into hatred or contempt', 'maintenance of  harmony  between  different
      religious groups' or 'likely to cause disharmony  or  hatred  or  ill-
      will', or 'annoyance to the public', (see Sections  124A,  153A(1)(b),
      153B(1)(c), and 268 of the Penal Code). These expressions, though they
      are difficult to define, do not elude a just application to  practical
      situations. The use of language carries with it the  inconvenience  of
      the imperfections of language.”

      In K.A. Abbas v. The Union of India (UOI) and Anr. (1970) 2  SCC  780
the Court observed:

      “46. These observations which are clearly obiter are  apt  to  be  too
      generally applied and need to be explained. While it is true that  the
      principles evolved by the  Supreme  Court  of  the  United  States  of
      America in the application of the Fourteenth Amendment  were  eschewed
      in our Constitution and instead the limits  of  restrictions  on  each
      fundamental right were indicated in the clauses that follow the  first
      clause of the nineteenth Article, it cannot be  said  as  an  absolute
      principle that no law will be  considered  bad  for  sheer  vagueness.
      There is ample authority for the  proposition  that  a  law  affecting
      fundamental rights may be so considered. A very pertinent  example  is
      to be found in State of Madhya Pradesh and Anr. v. Baldeo Prasad where
      the Central Provinces and Berar Goondas Act 1946 was declared void for
      uncertainty. The condition for the application of Sections  4  and  4A
      was that the person sought to be proceeded against must  be  a  goonda
      but the definition of  goonda  in  the  Act  indicated  no  tests  for
      deciding which person fell within the definition. The provisions  were
      therefore held to be uncertain and vague.
      47. The real rule is that if a law is vague or appears to be  so,  the
      court must try to  construe  it,  as  far  as  may  be,  and  language
      permitting, the construction sought to be placed on  it,  must  be  in
      accordance with the intention of the legislature. Thus if the  law  is
      open to diverse construction, that  construction  which  accords  best
      with the intention of the legislature  and  advances  the  purpose  of
      legislation, is to be preferred. Where however the law  admits  of  no
      such construction and the persons applying it are in a  boundless  sea
      of uncertainty and  the  law  prima  facie  takes  away  a  guaranteed
      freedom, the law must be held to offend the Constitution as  was  done
      in the case of the Goonda Act. This is not application of the doctrine
      of due process. The invalidity arises  from  the  probability  of  the
      misuse of the law to the detriment of the individual. If possible, the
      Court instead of striking down the law may itself  draw  the  line  of
      demarcation where possible but this effort should  be  sparingly  made
      and only in the clearest of cases.”

45.   We may now deal with the issue of  violation  of  Article  21  of  the
Constitution. The requirement of substantive due process has been read  into
the Indian Constitution through a combined reading of Articles  14,  21  and
19 and it has been held as a test which is required to  be  satisfied  while
judging the constitutionality of a provision which purports to  restrict  or
limit the right to life  and  liberty,  including  the  rights  of  privacy,
dignity and autonomy, as envisaged under Article 21.  In  order  to  fulfill
this test, the law must not only be competently legislated but it must  also
be just,  fair  and  reasonable.  Arising  from  this  are  the  notions  of
legitimate state interest  and  the  principle  of  proportionality.      In
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India  (supra),  this  Court  laid  down  the  due
process requirement in the following words:
      “13. Articles dealing with different fundamental rights  contained  in
      Part III of  the  Constitution  do  not  represent  entirely  separate
      streams of rights which do not mingle at many  points.  They  are  all
      parts of an integrated scheme in the Constitution. Their  waters  must
      mix to constitute that grand flow of unimpeded and  impartial  Justice
      (social, economic  and  political),  Freedom  (not  only  of  thought,
      expression, belief,  faith  and  worship,  but  also  of  association,
      movement, vocation  or  occupation  as  well  as  of  acquisition  and
      possession of reasonable property), of  Equality  (of  status  and  of
      opportunity,  which  imply   absence   of   unreasonable   or   unfair
      discrimination  between  individuals,  groups  and  classes),  and  of
      Fraternity (assuring dignity of the individual and the  unity  of  the
      nation), which  our  Constitution  visualises.  Isolation  of  various
      aspects of human freedom, for purposes of their protection, is neither
      realistic nor beneficial but would defeat the  very  objects  of  such

      … But the mere prescription of some kind of procedure cannot ever meet
      the mandate of Article 21. The procedure prescribed by law has  to  be
      fair, just and reasonable, not fanciful, oppressive or arbitrary.  The
      question whether the procedure prescribed by a law which  curtails  or
      takes away the personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 is reasonable
      or not has to be considered not in the  abstract  or  on  hypothetical
      considerations like the provision for a full-dressed hearing as  in  a
      Courtroom trial, but in the context, primarily, of the  purpose  which
      the Act is intended to achieve and of urgent  situations  which  those
      who are charged with the duty of administering the Act may  be  called
      upon to deal with. Secondly, even  the  fullest  compliance  with  the
      requirements of Article 21 is not the journey's  end  because,  a  law
      which prescribes fair  and  reasonable  procedure  for  curtailing  or
      taking away the personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 has still to
      meet a possible challenge under other provisions of  the  Constitution
      like, for example, Articles 14 and 19.”

46.   The right to  privacy  has  been  guaranteed  by  Article  12  of  the
Universal  Declaration  of  Human  Rights  (1948),   Article   17   of   the
International  Covenant  of  Civil  and  Political   Rights   and   European
Convention on Human Rights. It has been read  into  Article  21  through  an
expansive reading of the right to life and liberty. The scope of  the  right
as also the permissible limits upon its exercise have been laid down in  the
cases of Kharak Singh v. State of UP & Ors. (1964) 1 SCR 332 and  Gobind  v.
State of MP (1975) 2 SCC 148 which have been followed in a number  of  other
cases.      In Kharak Singh v. The  State  of  U.P.  and  Ors.  (supra)  the
majority said that 'personal liberty' in  Article  21  is  comprehensive  to
include all varieties of rights which make up  personal  liberty  of  a  man
other than those dealt with in Article 19(1) (d). According  to  the  Court,
while Article  19(1)  (d)  deals  with  the  particular  types  of  personal
freedom, Article 21 takes in and deals with the residue. The Court said:

      “We have already extracted a passage from the judgment of Field J.  in
      Munn v. Illinois (1877) 94 U.S. 113, where the learned  Judge  pointed
      out  that  'life'  in  the  5th  and  14th  Amendments  of  the   U.S.
      Constitution corresponding to Article 21 means not merely the right to
      the continuance of a person's animal existence, but  a  right  to  the
      possession of each of his organs-his arms and  legs  etc.  We  do  not
      entertain any doubt that the word 'life' in Article 21 bears the  same
      signification. Is then the word 'personal liberty' to be construed  as
      excluding from its purview an invasion on the part of  the  police  of
      the sanctity of a man's  home  and  an  intrusion  into  his  personal
      security and his right to sleep which is the normal comfort and a dire
      necessity for human existence even as an animal ? It might not  be  in
      appropriate to refer  here  to  the  words  of  the  preamble  to  the
      Constitution that it  is  designed  to  "assure  the  dignity  of  the
      individual" and therefore of those cherished human value as the  means
      of ensuring his full development and evolution. We  are  referring  to
      these objectives of the  framers  merely  to  draw  attention  to  the
      concepts underlying the Constitution which would point to  such  vital
      words as 'personal liberty' having to be  construed  in  a  reasonable
      manner and to be attributed that sense which would promote and achieve
      those objectives and by no means to stretch the meaning of the  phrase
      to square with any preconceived notions or doctrinaire  Constitutional

47.   In Gobind v. State of M.P. (supra) the Court observed:

      “22. There can be no doubt that privacy-dignity claims deserve  to  be
      examined  with  care  and  to  be  denied  only  when   an   important
      countervailing interest is shown to be superior.  If  the  Court  does
      find that a claimed right is entitled to protection as  a  fundamental
      privacy right, a law infringing it must satisfy the  compelling  state
      interest test. Then the question would be whether a state interest  is
      of such paramount importance as would justify an infringement  of  the
      right. Obviously, if the enforcement of morality were  held  to  be  a
      compelling  as   well   as   a   permissible   state   interest,   the
      characterization of ft claimed rights as a fundamental  privacy  right
      would be of far less significance. The question whether enforcement of
      morality is a state interest sufficient to justify the infringement of
      a fundamental privacy right need not be considered for the purpose  of
      this case and therefore we refuse to enter the  controversial  thicket
      whether enforcement of morality is a function of state.
      23. Individual autonomy, perhaps the central concern of any system  of
      limited government, is protected in part  under  our  Constitution  by
      explicit  Constitutional  guarantees.  "In  the  application  of   the
      Constitution our contemplation cannot only be of  what  has  been  but
      what may be."  Time  works  changes  and  brings  into  existence  new
      conditions. Subtler and far reaching means of invadings  privacy  will
      make it possible to be heard in the street what is  whispered  in  the
      closet.  Yet,  too  broad  a  definition  of  privacy  raises  serious
      questions about the propriety of judicial reliance on a right that  is
      not  explicit  in  the  Constitution.  Of  course,  privacy  primarily
      concerns the individuals. It therefore relates to  and  overlaps  with
      the concept of liberty. The most  serious  advocate  of  privacy  must
      confess that there are serious problems of defining  the  essence  and
      scope of the right. Privacy interest in autonomy must also  be  placed
      in the context of other rights and values.
      24. Any right to privacy  must  encompass  and  protect  the  personal
      intimacies of the home, the family marriage,  motherhood,  procreation
      and  child  rearing.  This  catalogue  approach  to  the  question  is
      obviously not as instructive as it does not give analytical picture of
      that distinctive characteristics of the right of privacy. Perhaps, the
      only suggestion that can be offered as unifying  principle  underlying
      the concept has been the assertion that a  claimed  right  must  be  a
      fundamental right implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.
      25. Rights and freedoms of citizens are set forth in the  Constitution
      in order to guarantee that the individual, his personality  and  those
      things stamped with  his  personality  shall  be  free  from  official
      interference except where a reasonable  basis  for  intrusion  exists.
      "Liberty against government"  a  phrase  coined  by  Professor  Corwin
      express this idea forcefully. In this sense, many of  the  fundamental
      rights of citizens can be described as contributing to  the  right  to
      26. As Ely says: "There is nothing to prevent one from using the  word
      'privacy' to mean the freedom to live one's life without  governmental
      interference. But the Court obviously does not so use  the  term.  Nor
      could it, for such a right is at stake in every case" see  "The  Wages
      of Crying Wolf: A Comment on Roe v. Wade, 82 Yale L.J. 920.
      27. There are two possible theories for protecting  privacy  of  home.
      The first is that activities in the  home  harm  others  only  to  the
      extent that they cause offence resulting from the  mere  thought  that
      individuals might he engaging in such activities and that such  'harm'
      is not Constitutionally protective by the state. The  second  is  that
      individuals need a place of sanctuary where  they  can  be  free  from
      societal  control.  The  importance  of  such  a  sanctuary  is   that
      individuals can drop the mask, desist for a while from  projecting  on
      the world the image they want to be accepted as themselves,  an  image
      that may reflect the values of their peers rather than  the  realities
      of their natures see 26 Standford Law Rev. 1161 at 1187.
      28. The right to privacy in any event  will  necessarily  have  to  go
      through  a  process  of  case-by-case  development.  Therefore,   even
      assuming that the right to personal liberty, the right to move  freely
      throughout the territory of India and the freedom of speech create  an
      independent right of privacy as an emanation from them which  one  can
      characterize as a fundamental right, we do not think that the right is

48.   The issues of bodily integrity and the right to  sexual  choices  have
been dealt with by this Court in Suchita Srivastava and Anr.  v.  Chandigarh
Administration (2009) 9 SCC 1, in  context  of  Section  3  of  the  Medical
Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, observed:
      “11. A plain reading of the above-quoted provision makes it clear that
      Indian law allows for abortion only if the  specified  conditions  are
      met. When the MTP Act  was  first  enacted  in  1971  it  was  largely
      modelled on the Abortion Act of 1967 which  had  been  passed  in  the
      United Kingdom. The legislative intent  was  to  provide  a  qualified
      'right to abortion' and the termination of pregnancy  has  never  been
      recognised as a normal recourse for expecting  mothers.  There  is  no
      doubt that a woman's right to make  reproductive  choices  is  also  a
      dimension of 'personal liberty' as understood under Article 21 of  the
      Constitution of India. It is important to recognise that  reproductive
      choices can be exercised to procreate  as  well  as  to  abstain  from
      procreating. The crucial consideration is  that  a  woman's  right  to
      privacy, dignity and bodily integrity should be respected. This  means
      that there should be no restriction  whatsoever  on  the  exercise  of
      reproductive choices such as a woman's right to  refuse  participation
      in  sexual  activity  or  alternatively  the  insistence  on  use   of
      contraceptive methods. Furthermore, women  are  also  free  to  choose
      birth-control methods such  as  undergoing  sterilisation  procedures.
      Taken to their  logical  conclusion,  reproductive  rights  include  a
      woman's entitlement to carry a pregnancy to its  full  term,  to  give
      birth and to subsequently raise children.  However,  in  the  case  of
      pregnant  women  there  is  also  a  'compelling  state  interest'  in
      protecting  the  life  of  the  prospective  child.   Therefore,   the
      termination of a pregnancy  is  only  permitted  when  the  conditions
      specified in the applicable statute have been  fulfilled.  Hence,  the
      provisions of the MTP Act, 1971  can  also  be  viewed  as  reasonable
      restrictions that have been placed on  the  exercise  of  reproductive

      49.   In Mr. X v. Hospital Z (1998) 8 SCC 296, this court observed:

      “25. As one of the basic Human Rights, the right  of  privacy  is  not
      treated as absolute and is subject to such action as may  be  lawfully
      taken for the prevention of crime or disorder or protection of  health
      or morals or protection of rights and freedoms of others.
      26. Right of Privacy may, apart from contract, also  arise  out  of  a
      particular specific relationship which may be commercial, matrimonial,
      or  even  political.  As  already  discussed   above,   Doctor-patient
      relationship,  though  basically  commercial,  is,  professionally,  a
      matter of confidence and, therefore. Doctors are morally and ethically
      bound  to  maintain  confidentiality.  In  such  a  situation,  public
      disclosure of even true private facts may amount to an invasion of the
      Right of Privacy which may sometimes lead to  the  clash  of  person's
      "right to be let alone" with another person's right to be informed.
      27. Disclosure of even true private facts has the tendency to  disturb
      a person's tranquility. It may generate many complexes in him and  may
      even lead to  psychological  problems.  He  may,  thereafter,  have  a
      disturbed life all through. In the face of these  potentialities,  and
      as already held by this Court in its  various  decisions  referred  to
      above, the Right of Privacy is an essential component of right to life
      envisaged by Article 21. The right, however, is not absolute  and  may
      be lawfully restricted  for  the  prevention  of  crime,  disorder  or
      protection of health or morals or protection of rights and freedom  of
      28. Having regard to the fact that  the  appellant  was  found  to  be
      HIV(+), its disclosure would not be violative of either  the  rule  of
      confidentiality or the appellant's Right of Privacy as Ms. Akali  with
      whom the appellant was likely to be married was saved in time by  such
      disclosure, or else,  she  too  would  have  been  infected  with  the
      dreadful disease if marriage had taken place and consummated.”

50.   The right to live with dignity  has  been  recognized  as  a  part  of
Article 21 and the matter has been dealt with in Francis Coralie  Mullin  v.
Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi and Ors. (1981) 1  SCC  608  wherein
the Court observed:
      “8. But the question which arises is whether  the  right  to  life  is
      limited only to protection of limb or faculty or does  it  go  further
      and embrace something more. We think that the right to  life  includes
      the right to live with human dignity and all that goes along with  it,
      namely, the bare necessaries  of  life  such  as  adequate  nutrition,
      clothing  and  shelter  and  facilities  for  reading,   writing   and
      expressing one-self in diverse forms, freely moving about  and  mixing
      and commingling with fellow human beings. Of course, the magnitude and
      content of the components of this right would depend upon  the  extent
      of the economic development of the country, but it must, in  any  view
      of the matter, include the right to the basic necessities of life  and
      also the right to carry on such functions and activities as constitute
      the bare minimum expression of the human-self. Every act which offends
      against or impairs human  dignity  would  constitute  deprivation  pro
      tanto of this right to live and it would have to be in accordance with
      reasonable, fair and just procedure established by  law  which  stands
      the test of other fundamental  rights.  Now  obviously,  any  form  of
      torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment would be offensive to
      human dignity and constitute an inroad into this right to live and  it
      would, on this view, be prohibited by  Article  21  unless  it  is  in
      accordance  with  procedure  prescribed  by  law,  but  no  law  which
      authorises and no procedure which leads  to  such  torture  or  cruel,
      inhuman  or  degrading  treatment  can  ever   stand   the   test   of
      reasonableness   and   non-arbitrariness:   it   would   plainly    be
      unconstitutional and void as being violative of Articles 14 and 21.”

51.   Respondent No.1 attacked Section 377 IPC on the ground that  the  same
has been used to perpetrate harassment, blackmail  and  torture  on  certain
persons, especially those belonging to the LGBT community. In  our  opinion,
this treatment is neither mandated by the section nor  condoned  by  it  and
the mere fact that the section is misused by police authorities  and  others
is not a reflection of the vires of the section.  It  might  be  a  relevant
factor for the Legislature to consider while  judging  the  desirability  of
amending Section 377 IPC. The law in this  regard  has  been  discussed  and
clarified succinctly in Sushil Kumar Sharma  v.  Union  of  India  and  Ors.
(2005) 6 SCC 281 as follows:

      “11. It is well settled that mere possibility of abuse of a  provision
      of law does not per se invalidate a legislation. It must be  presumed,
      unless contrary is proved, that administration and  application  of  a
      particular law would be done "not with an evil eye and  unequal  hand"
      (see: A. Thangal Kunju Musaliar v. M. Venkatachalam Potti,  Authorised
      Official and Income-Tax Officer and Anr.)  : [1956]29ITR349(SC) .
      12. In Budhan Choudhry and Ors. v. State of Bihar   :  1955CriLJ374  a
      contention  was  raised  that  a  provision  of   law   may   not   be
      discriminatory  but  it  may  land  itself  to  abuse  bringing  about
      discrimination between the  persons  similarly  situated.  This  court
      repelled the contention holding that on the possibility of abuse of  a
      provision by the authority, the legislation may not be held  arbitrary
      or discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.
      13. From the decided cases in India as well as  in  United  States  of
      America, the principle appears to be well settled that if a  statutory
      provision is otherwise intra-vires,  constitutional  and  valid,  mere
      possibility of abuse of power in  a  given  case  would  not  make  it
      objectionable,  ultra-vires  or  unconstitutional.  In   such   cases,
      "action" and not the "section" may be vulnerable. If  it  is  so,  the
      court by upholding the provision of  law,  may  still  set  aside  the
      action, order or decision and grant appropriate relief to  the  person
      14. In Mafatlal Industries Ltd. and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors.  :
      1997(89)ELT247(SC)  ,  a  Bench  of  9  Judges  observed   that   mere
      possibility  of  abuse  of  a  provision  by  those   in   charge   of
      administering  it  cannot  be  a  ground  for  holding   a   provision
      procedurally or substantively unreasonable. In Collector of Customs v.
      Nathella Sampathu Chetty : 1983ECR2198D(SC) this Court observed:
      "The possibility of abuse of a statute otherwise valid does not impart
      to it any element of invalidity." It was said in State of Rajasthan v.
      Union of India  : [1978]1SCR1  "it  must  be  remembered  that  merely
      because power may sometimes be abused, it is no ground for denying the
      existence of power. The wisdom  of  man  has  not  yet  been  able  to
      conceive of a Government with  power  sufficient  to  answer  all  its
      legitimate needs and at the same time incapable  of  mischief."  (Also
      see: Commissioner, H.R.E. v. Sri Lakshmindra Thirtha  Swamiar  of  Sri
      Shirur Meth  : [1954]1SCR1005 .
      15. As observed in Maulavi Hussein Haji Abraham  Umarji  v.  State  of
      Gujarat  MANU/SC/0567/2004  :  2004CriLJ3860  .  Unique   Butle   Tube
      Industries  (P)  Ltd.  v.  U.P.  Financial  Corporation  and  Ors.   :
      [2002]SUPP5SCR666 and Padma Sundara Rao (dead) and Ors.  v.  State  of
      Tamil and Ors. [2002]255ITR147(SC) , while interpreting  a  provision,
      the Court only interprets the  law  and  cannot  legislate  it.  If  a
      provision of law is misused and subjected to the abuse of the  process
      of law, it is for the legislature to amend, modify or  repeal  it,  if
      deemed necessary.”

52.   In its anxiety to protect the so-called rights of LGBT persons and to
declare that Section 377 IPC violates the right to  privacy,  autonomy  and
dignity, the High Court has extensively relied upon the judgments of  other
jurisdictions.  Though these judgments shed considerable light  on  various
aspects of this right and are informative in  relation  to  the  plight  of
sexual minorities, we feel that they  cannot  be  applied  blindfolded  for
deciding  the  constitutionality  of  the  law  enacted   by   the   Indian
legislature.  This view was expressed as early as in 1973 in Jagmohan Singh
v. State of U.P. (1973) 1 SCC 20.  In that  case,  a  Constitutional  Bench
considered the legality of the  death  sentence  imposed  by  the  Sessions
Judge, Shahjahanpur, which was confirmed by the Allahabad High Court.   One
of the arguments raised by the counsel for the appellant was  that  capital
punishment has been abolished in U.S. on the ground of violation of the 8th
Amendment.  While considering that argument, this Court observed:

      “13.  Reference was made by Mr Garg to several studies made by Western
      scholars to show the ineffectiveness of capital punishment either as a
      detterent or as appropriate retribution.  There  is  large  volume  of
      evidence compiled in the West by kindly social reformers and  research
      workers to confound those who want to retain the  capital  punishment.
      The  controversy  is  not  yet  ended  and  experiments  are  made  by
      suspending the death sentence where  possible  in  order  to  see  its
      effect. On the other hand most of these studies suffer from one  grave
      defect namely that they  consider  all  murders  as  stereotypes,  the
      result of sudden passion or the like, disregarding motivation in  each
      individual case. A large number  of  murders  is  undoubtedly  of  the
      common type. But some at least are diabolical in conception and  cruel
      in execution. In some others where the victim  is  a  person  of  high
      standing in the country society is liable to be  rocked  to  its  very
      foundation. Such murders cannot  be  simply  wished  away  by  finding
      alibis in the social maladjustment of the murderer. Prevalence of such
      crimes speaks, in the opinion of many, for the inevitability of  death
      penalty not only by way of deterrence  but  as  a  token  of  emphatic
      disapproval by the society.

      14. We have grave doubts about the expediency of transplanting Western
      experience in our country. Social conditions are different and so also
      the general intellectual level. In the context  of  our  Criminal  Law
      which  punishes  murder,  one  cannot  ignore  the  fact   that   life
      imprisonment works out in most cases to a dozen years of  imprisonment
      and it may be seriously questioned whether that sole alternative  will
      be an adequate substitute for the death  penalty.  We  have  not  been
      referred to any large-scale studies of crime  statistics  compiled  in
      this country with the object of estimating the need of  protection  of
      the society against murders. The only authoritative study is  that  of
      the Law Commission of India published in 1967. It is its  Thirty-fifth
      Report. After collecting as much available material  as  possible  and
      assessing the views expressed in the West both  by  abolitionists  and
      the retentionists the Law Commission has come  to  its  conclusion  at
      paras 262 to 264. These paragraphs are summarized by the Commission as
      follows at p. 354 of the Report:

         “The issue of abolition or  retention  has  to  be  decided  on  a
      balancing of the various  arguments  for  and  against  retention.  No
      single argument for abolition or retention can decide  the  issue.  In
      arriving at any conclusion on the subject,  the  need  for  protecting
      society in general and individual human beings must be borne in mind.
        It is difficult to rule  out  the  validity  of,  or  the  strength
      behind, many of the arguments for abolition. Nor does  the  Commission
      treat lightly the argument based on the irrevocability of the sentence
      of death, the need for a modern  approach,  the  severity  of  capital
      punishment, and the strong feeling shown by certain sections of public
      opinion in stressing deeper questions of human values.
        Having regard, however, to the conditions in India, to the  variety
      of the social upbringing of its inhabitants, to the disparity  in  the
      level of morality and education in the country, to the vastness of its
      area, to the diversity of its population and to the paramount need for
      maintaining law and order in the  country  at  the  present  juncture,
      India cannot risk the experiment of abolition of capital punishment.
        Arguments which would be valid in respect of one area of the  world
      may not hold good  in  respect  of  another  area,  in  this  context.
      Similarly, even if abolition in some parts of India  may  not  make  a
      material difference, it may be fraught with  serious  consequences  in
      other parts.
        On a consideration of all the issues involved, the Commission is of
      the opinion, that capital punishment should be retained in the present
      state of the country.”

      The Court also referred to an earlier judgment in State of Madras  v.
V.G. Row 1952 SCR 597. In that case, Patanjali Sastri, CJ. observed:

      “It is important in this context to bear in  mind  that  the  test  of
      reasonableness,  wherever  prescribed,  should  be  applied  to   each
      individual statute impugned, and  to  abstract  standard,  or  general
      pattern, of reasonableness can be  laid  down  as  applicable  to  all
      cases. The nature of the right alleged to  have  been  infringed,  the
      underlying purpose of the restrictions imposed, the extent and urgency
      of the evil sought to be remedied thereby, the  disproportion  of  the
      imposition, the prevailing conditions at the time,  should  all  enter
      into the judicial verdict. In  evaluating  such  elusive  factors  and
      forming their own  conception  of  what  is  reasonable,  in  all  the
      circumstances of a given  case,  it  is  inevitable  that  the  social
      philosophy and the scale of values of the judges participating in  the
      decision should play  an  important  part,  and  the  limit  to  their
      interference with legislative judgment  in  such  cases  can  only  be
      dictated by their sense of responsibility and self-restraint  and  the
      sobering reflection that the Constitution is meant not only for people
      of their way of thinking but for all, and that  the  majority  of  the
      elected  representatives  of  the  people  have,  in  authorising  the
      imposition of the restrictions, considered them to be reasonable”. The
      responsibility of Judges in that respect is  the  greater,  since  the
      question as to whether capital sentence for murder is  appropriate  in
      modern times has raised serious controversy the world over, sometimes,
      with emotional overtones. It is, therefore, essential that we approach
      this constitutional question with objectivity and  proper  measure  of

53.    The  afore-stated  judgment  was  relied  upon  in  Surendra  Pal  v.
Saraswati Arora (1974) 2 SCC 600.  Learned  counsel  who  appeared  for  the
appellant in that case  relied  upon  a  passage  from  Halsbury’s  Laws  of
England on the issue of presumption  of  undue  influence  in  the  case  of
parties engaged to be married.  While refusing to rely upon the  proposition
laid down in Halsbury’s laws of England, this Court observed:
      “The family law in England has undergone a drastic change,  recognised
      new social  relationship  between  man  and  woman.  In  our  country,
      however, even today a marriage is an arranged affair. We  do  not  say
      that there are no exceptions to this practice  or  that  there  is  no
      tendency, however imperceptible, for young persons to choose their own
      spouses, but even in such cases the consent of their parents is one of
      the desiderata which is sought for. Whether  it  is  obtained  in  any
      given set  of  circumstances  is  another  matter.  In  such  arranged
      marriages in this country the question of two  persons  being  engaged
      for any appreciable time to enable each other to  meet  and  be  in  a
      position to exercise  undue  influence  on  one  another  very  rarely
      arises. Even in the case of the  marriage  in  the  instant  case,  an
      advertisement was resorted to by Bhim Sain. The person who purports to
      reply is Saraswati’s mother and the person who replied to her was Bhim
      Sain’s Personal Assistant. But the social considerations prevailing in
      this country and ethos even in such cases persist in  determining  the
      respective attitudes. That apart, as we said earlier, the negotiations
      for  marriage  held  in  Saraswati’s  sister’s  house  have  all   the
      appearance of a business  transaction.  In  these  circumstances  that
      portion of the statement of the law in Halsbury which  refers  to  the
      presumption of the exercise of undue influence in the case of a man to
      a woman to whom he is engaged to be married would hardly be applicable
      to conditions in this country. We have had occasion to point  out  the
      danger of such statements of law enunciated and propounded for meeting
      the conditions existing in the countries in which they are  applicable
      from being  blindly  followed  in  this  country  without  a  critical
      examination  of  those  principles  and  their  applicability  to  the
      conditions, social norms and attitudes existing in this country. Often
      statements of  law  applicable  to  foreign  countries  as  stated  in
      compilations and learned treatises are cited without making a critical
      examination of those principles in the background  of  the  conditions
      that existed or exist in those countries. If we are  not  wakeful  and
      circumspect, there is every likelihood of their being  simply  applied
      to cases requiring  our  adjudication  without  consideration  of  the
      background and various other conditions to which we have referred.  On
      several occasions merely because  courts  in  foreign  countries  have
      taken  a  different  view  than  that  taken  by  our  courts  or   in
      adjudicating on any particular matter  we  were  asked  to  reconsider
      those decisions or to consider them for the first time  and  to  adopt
      them as the law of this country.

        No doubt an objective and rational deduction of a principle, if  it
      emerges from a decision of foreign country, rendered on  pari  materia
      legislative provisions and which can be applicable to  the  conditions
      prevailing in this country will assist the  Court  in  arriving  at  a
      proper conclusion. While we should seek light from whatever source  we
      can get, we should however guard against being blinded by it.”

54.   In view of the above discussion, we hold that  Section  377  IPC  does
not suffer from the vice of unconstitutionality and the declaration made  by
the Division Bench of the High court is legally unsustainable.

55.   The appeals are accordingly allowed, the impugned order is  set  aside
and the writ petition filed by respondent No.1 is dismissed.

56.   While parting with the case, we would like to make it clear that  this
Court has merely pronounced on the correctness of  the  view  taken  by  the
Delhi High Court on the constitutionality of Section 377 IPC and found  that
the  said  section  does  not  suffer  from  any  constitutional  infirmity.

Notwithstanding this verdict, the competent legislature  shall  be  free  to
consider the desirability and propriety of deleting  Section  377  IPC  from
the statute book or amend the  same  as  per  the  suggestion  made  by  the
Attorney General.

                       (G.S. SINGHVI)

                       (SUDHANSU JYOTI MUKHOPADHAYA)
New Delhi
December 11, 2013[pic]

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