Bill introduced by Shashi Tharoor seeking to decriminalize homosexuality defeated in the Lok Sabha

Bill introduced by Shashi Tharoor seeking to decriminalize homosexuality defeated in the Lok Sabha

The Private Member’s Bill introduced by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor to decriminalise homosexuality was defeated in the Lok Sabha today.

The introduction of the Bill which sought to drop the phrase “against the order of nature” which is presently incorporated in Section 377 IPC and legalise sex between consenting adults, irrespective of gender or sexuality was objected to by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey. Dubey said he was opposing the bill not because of any religion, vedas or ‘puranas’ but because of the Apex Court judgment upholding the constitutionality of the said provision.

Despite the objection raised, Shashi Tharoor, insisted on going ahead with the introduction of the Bill arguing that Dubey was quoting only “partially” from the Supreme Court judgment.

A bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya, had passed a judgment in December 2013 setting aside the Delhi High Court judgment which had decriminalized gay sex among consenting adults in private.

The Apex Court while upholding Section 377 IPC had observed that it was for the legislature to look into desirability of deleting section 377 of IPC. The Court while hearing the appeal had expressed disappointment over the Parliament not discussing such important issues and blaming judiciary instead for its overreach. It had also criticized the Centre for its non-serious approach on decriminalization of homosexuality.

The Supreme Court had thereby overturned the verdict rendered by the Delhi High Court in 2009 which had pronounced Section 377 IPC as unconstitutional.

It may also be recollected that the Supreme Court in January 2014 had rejected the petition filed by the Central Government to review its judgement on Section 377. Justice HL Dattu and Justice SJ Mukhopadhaya who heard the plea for the review petition in the private chambers had refused to accept the Centre’s plea for reviewing the earlier decision by Justice Singhvi and Justice Mukhopadhaya.

However, in view of the objection raised and in order to take the sense of the House, Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai put the motion to vote.

Tharoor pressed for division of votes whereupon the motion was negated by 71 ‘Noes’ against 24 ‘yes’. There was one abstention.

Though the ruling party’s own member opposed the introduction of the Bill by Shashi Tharoor, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had earlier publicly backed calls for changing the law and ending the ban. "When you have millions of people involved in this (gay sex) you can't nudge them off," he said at the Times Lit Fest last month, adding that the Court had taken a “conservative view.” "When millions of people world over are having alternative sexual preferences, it is too late in the day to propound a view that they should be jailed. The Delhi High Court's view appears more acceptable," he had then commented.

Later, reacting to the developments on the floor of the House, Shashi Tharoor tweeted that he was “surprised to see such intolerance” and that the notice of intent to oppose the Bill came so late in the day that there was hardly any time to rally support. He added that he would make an attempt again in the future.

The Full text of the bill can be read here.