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CJI Thakur will take call on whether to admit / club celebrity 377 petition: Forecast decent

A two-judge Supreme Court bench on Wednesday declined to hear a fresh petition by high profile celebrities challenging criminalisation of consensual gay and lesbian sex, and the matter was referred to Chief Justice TS Thakur.

The bench headed by Justice SA Bobde said the petition by Sangeet Natak Akademi awardee Navtej Singh Johar and celebrity chef Ritu Dalmia should be placed before the Chief Justice to decide if it can be heard along with a batch of curative petitions on the same issue pending in the court.

Senior counsel Arvind Datar told the court that the earlier petitions challenging the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code were filed by NGOs like rights group Naz Foundation. But it was the first time that lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens have filed a writ petition seeking to quash the colonial era law that criminalises homosexuality.

The bench said it would hear only after the decision by the constitution bench before which the curative petitions are pending.

CJI Thakur had February, against most odds, headed a bench that referred the section 377 curative petition to a constitution bench.

Unepected suspense

Although the Supreme Court bench comprising justices SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan asked the Supreme Court registry  to place the fresh petition filed by the five celebrities challenging the validity of Section 377 IIPC before the CJI for his decision on how to deal with it, it was not without its element of suspense. 

Livelaw reported that the bench first wanted to keep the petition pending till the five Judge bench decided the curative petitions referred to it by the CJI-led three Judge bench earlier. The CJI is yet to set up by this bench.

When counsel, Arvind Datar persisted that these petitions have been filed by individuals who have personally suffered because of the existence of section 377 in the IPC, and there is no NGO to represent them, and therefore, they deserve to be heard separately, the bench gave him the option to either keep it pending or place it before the CJI, who may decide to tag it with the curative petitions.

Datar then agreed to place it before the CJI, for his decision.

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