A newly re-constituted five-judge constitution bench will begin hearing of four crucial matters, including the much-contested case challenging the Constitutional validity of Section 377 of Indian Penal Code from July 10, 2018.
Following are the four cases that have been listed for hearing before the bench:
1. Constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalises homosexuality
2. Validity of the ban on entry of women between the age of 15 and 50 in the sanctum sanctorum of Sabrimala Temple
3. Validity of the Adultery Law under Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, which seeks to punish only men for adultery and treats women involved in the crime as victims.
4. Whether a legislator can be disqualified on account of a charge sheet filed against him/her or should it be done only upon conviction?
The new five-judge bench will be headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and would comprise Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra.
The first case listed for hearing includes the challenge to Section 377 of Indian Penal Code or the issue of sexual relations between persons of same sex.
• The Delhi High Court, on July 2, 2009, had legalised homosexual acts among consenting adults, holding that the 149-year-old law making it a criminal offence was violative of the fundamental rights.
• The Supreme Court had in 2013 set aside the Delhi High Court's 2009 judgement decriminalising sex between consenting adults of the same sex by holding Section 377 of IPC as "illegal", and declared the sexual relationship between persons of the same sex as a criminal offence.
• Following the verdict, review petitions were filed and on their dismissal, curative petitions were filed by the affected parties for the re-examination of the original verdict.
• During the pendency of the curative petitions, a plea was made that an open court hearing should be granted and after the apex court agreed to it, several fresh writ petitions were filed seeking decriminalising of Section 377.
The Section refers to 'unnatural offences' and stated that whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse 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 pay a fine.
The petitioners contend that the continued existence of section 377 severely curtails the protection of equality, dignity, liberty and expression that the Constitution guarantees to all Indian citizen.
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