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Even as the Supreme Court hears the challenge to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the Central government’s stand on the provision remains a mystery.
Attorney General KK Venugopal added fuel to the speculation that the Centre may oppose the striking down of Section 377.
In a sound byte to ANI, Venugopal said that he is not appearing for the Union of India in the writ petitions currently being heard by the Supreme Court, since he had taken a different stand when he had appeared in the curative petition filed in the aftermath of the 2013 Supreme Court judgment.
Venugopal hinted that the government is supporting the 2013 judgment of the Supreme Court in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Union of India. He said,
“The problem is this. I had appeared in the petition for curative. Now I am told the government stand is different. Therefore I am not appearing in that case at all. I can’t appear because I had taken a different stand. I had already appeared for the petitioners in the curative petition to set aside the judgment while the Government of India is supporting the judgment.”
The case stems from the Division Bench judgment of the Supreme Court in Suresh Kumar Koushal delivered on December 11, 2013, wherein it had declared Section 377 of the IPC as Constitutionally valid, while setting aside a 2009 judgment of the Delhi High Court.
Interestingly, the Central government had not filed an appeal against the Delhi High Court judgment; the Supreme Court had passed this judgment in an appeal filed by certain private parties.
Subsequently, the Centre had even filed a review petition challenging the Supreme Court judgment. The review petition was dismissed and a curative petition came to be filed.
In the curative petition, Venugopal had appeared for the petitioners and argued against the Supreme Court judgment in Suresh Kumar Koushal.
With Venugopal now stating that the Centre is against that stand and is supporting the judgment, it would seem that the Centre might be against scrapping Section 377.
It was Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared for the Centre today. Mehta, at the outset, told the Court that the Centre is yet to finalise its stand and will file its response.
Subsequently, even during the hearing, Mehta had interjected a couple of times when the petitioner’s counsel referred to the fact that the Union of India had not appealed against Delhi High Court verdict.
Efforts to reach out to the law officers to ascertain the stand of the Centre did not bear fruit.