Ministers’ comments on our gay sex order ‘unwanted’, says SC

Supreme courtA bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi reminded the ministers of their “responsibilities” while underlining that their statements were not required.

The Supreme Court on Friday expressed disapproval at "unwanted" and "not appreciable" comments made by union ministers against its verdict upholding the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality.

A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi reminded the ministers of their "responsibilities" while underlining that their statements were not required.

"We agree that one or two statements by (a) few ministers are not acceptable. They are not in good taste and also unwarranted. Though they have every right to criticise our judgments but not by making such statements, and persons occupying high positions must realise their responsibilities," the bench said.

The court was hearing a PIL by social activist Puroshotham Mulloli, who was a party in the matter relating to the validity of Section 377. By its verdict on December 11, the court had ruled that the section was constitutionally valid in making gay sex an offence punishable with up to a life term, and that the government could take the legislative route if it wanted to change the provision.

Counsel for Mulloli Harshvir Pratap Sharma adduced before the bench a series of statements issued after the judgment. The petition made Law Minister Kapil Sibal, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Minister of State for Shipping Milind Deora and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah parties for their comments on the verdict.

Sibal had called the ruling "unfortunate", and said the gay sex law did not "fit into the 21st century". Chidambaram had said India had "gone back to 1860", and must find a way to reverse the judgment very quickly. Omar tweeted, "How can a lifestyle choice be illegal?", and Deora commented: "It is about personal choice, SC."

Sharma argued that by attacking the law, the ministers had breached their oath of office. He said that the court's indulgence was required because there was no provision specifying consequences if ministers violated the oath. The plea also sought guidelines on the "limits" ministers and law officers could go to while criticising a verdict.

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