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Supreme Court reopens debate over Section 377 by referring matter to 5-judge bench
The apex court in its verdict on Tuesday reopened the debate on homosexuality and Section 377 by referring the eight curative petitions challenging its earlier verdict to a five-judge bench.

The SC has said that the case involves important constitutional issues. Lawyer Anand Grover said, "It is definitely a step forward."

The LGBT activists gathered outside the courtroom cheered as the SC announced its decision. LGBT activist Mohnish said, "This is a progressive step in right direction; it is a corrective measure."

Another activist Elena said, "For today, this is good news."

The apex court had in its December 2013 judgment upheld section 377, which criminalises unnatural sex between two individuals, including homosexual acts, and in a January 2014 order the SC had dismissed a bunch of review petitions.

However later a bench headed by Chief Justice of India TS Thakur agreed to hear the curative petition against the apex court's December 2013 order.

Section 377, which came into force in 1862 says, "Whoever voluntarily has carnal interĀ¬course 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 10 years, and shall also be liable to fine."

NGO Naz Foundation which works for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights is one of the petitioners.

The gay rights activists have said in their petition that after the Delhi High Court in its 2009 verdict had decriminalised gay sex, a lot of men and women had disclosed their sexual orientation in the past four years, and now faced the fear of prosecution.

The Delhi High Court in its 2009 verdict had declared that part of Section 377 unconstitutional which prohibited unnatural sex by saying "the section denies a gay person a right to full personhood.."

The SC reserved its verdict in 2013 by upholding Section 377 and passed the buck on the Parliament, by saying that it was for the legislature to take a call on desirability of the controversial provision.

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