A landmark ruling on privacy has set the stage for India’s Supreme Court to legalise homosexuality in the world’s largest democracy.
On Thursday, the court issued a judgement finding that the right to privacy is “a fundamental right” and that “sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy”.
The case in question was not about the legality of the country’s gay ban but rather dealt with issues of privacy related to the government implementing a national identity number for each citizen.
The panel of nine justices used the opportunity to pronounce on the LGBT community’s right to privacy. They ruled: “Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual.
“Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform. The right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.”
The court also attacked the justification behind the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that reinstated the gay sex ban on the basis that the LGBT community was too small a group to warrant constitutional protection.
The justices stated that this “is not a sustainable basis to deny the right to privacy” and that the rights of minority groups “are as sacred as those conferred on other citizens to protect their freedoms and liberties”.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code punishes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” with imprisonment for life.
In 2013, the Supreme Court shocked the world when it overturned a ground breaking 2009 ruling by the Delhi High Court that repealed Section 377.
The Supreme Court has since agreed to consider a petition requesting a review of the 2013 decision. Thursday’s ruling does not making homosexuality legal as yet but almost certainly ensures that the court will do when it rules on the homosexuality petition.