India's Supreme Court says it will reexamine gay-sex ban

India’s Supreme Court said Tuesday that it would reexamine its decision criminalizing gay sex, giving hope to activists who have called the law a violation of fundamental rights.

The high court said it would constitute a five-judge panel to hear an appeal by advocacy groups challenging the 2013 decision that criminalized same-sex relations between consenting adults.

That controversial decision reinstated Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which outlaws sexual intercourse “against the order of nature.”

Activists cheered the decision, which appeared to signal that the court was willing to hear arguments that it had erred in its judgment.

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“It seems to indicate they’re ready to hear the matter, which is good,” said lawyer Anand Grover, who has challenged Section 377 in court.

Activists say that while the law has not led to Indians being prosecuted for same-sex relations, it has caused many homosexuals to live in fear and exposed them to extortion and threats.

Though there is growing support in India for the law to be changed, including from top levels of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, church groups and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board told the Supreme Court jurists that they were decriminalizing homosexuality.

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Legal experts say the five-judge panel hearing the activists’ so-called curative petition -- a mechanism by which the Supreme Court can reverse a decision it deems to have been a mistake -- can only decide to overturn the decision on narrow legal grounds. Only three such petitions have led to a high court ruling being overturned, experts said.

The court did not say when the five-judge panel would be appointed.

shashank.bengali@latimes.com

Follow @SBengali on Twitter for more news from South Asia

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