April 22, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
India Supreme Court agrees to reconsider sodomy ruling

Supreme Court of India, gay news, Washington Blade

India Supreme Court (Photo by Legaleagle86; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Indian Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would consider a motion to reconsider last December’s controversial ruling that recriminalized homosexuality in the South Asian country.

A three-judge panel agreed to hear oral arguments in the motion – known as a curative petition – the Naz Foundation Trust, an HIV/AIDS advocacy group that challenged India’s sodomy law, filed after the court reinstated Section 377 of the country’s penal code. Voices Against 377, a group of LGBT advocates, teachers and mental health professionals and filmmaker Shyam Benegal also petitioned the Indian Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling in the Koushal v. Naz case.

“The curative petition is an opportunity for the court to apply a course correction and rethink a decision which has been universally condemned,” Arvind Narrain of the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

LGBT rights advocates in India and across the world protested the December 2012 decision that overturned a 2009 Delhi High Court ruling that decriminalized homosexuality in the world’s second most populated country.

A two-judge panel in January rejected activists’ request to reconsider the ruling.

Vikram Doctor of the Times of India newspaper described Tuesday’s announcement as “wonderful, like getting a second chance.”

“We hope that this will turn out to be an opportunity for the court to admit the curative petitions and begin to correct a decision which perpetuated stigma and entrenched discrimination against LGBT persons merely for being who they are,” added Narrain.

The announcement to reconsider the recriminalization of homosexuality comes a week after the Indian Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that recognizes transgender people as a “third gender.”

Sapna Pandya, president of KhushDC, a group for LGBT South Asians who live in the Washington metropolitan area, told the Blade she hopes the justices will “use precisely the reasoning it utilized” in the aforementioned decision to strike down India’s sodomy law.

“It is impossible to empower and protect transgender Indians while declaring the sexuality of so many of them to be criminal,” she said.

Doctor told the Blade he feels the April 15 decision “likely” influenced Tuesday’s announcement to reconsider the ruling that reinstated Section 377.

“That throws up various conflicts with Koushal v. Naz and it does seem like a larger bench must decide on this,” he said.

The Indian Supreme Court next week is slated to hear oral arguments in the motion to reconsider its ruling in the Koushal case.

“Our work on HIV prevention with MSM [men who have sex with men] and transgender communities has been noticeably affected by the December ruling, so our fingers are crossed for some progress,” said James Robertson, executive director of the India HIV/AIDS Alliance in New Delhi.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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