India government mulls legalising gay sex after court ban

India government mulls legalising gay sex after court ban
A gay rights activist takes a photograph of herself using her mobile phone during a protest against a verdict by the Supreme Court in New Delhi December 11, 2013.

NEW DELHI - India's government said Thursday it would look at ways to swiftly reverse a shock ruling which reinstated a ban on gay sex, accusing the Supreme Court of dragging the country back to the 19th century.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, who doubles up as the government's chief spokesman, said gay rights legislation could be drawn up following Wednesday's verdict but warned that such a move would be time-consuming.

Law Minister Kapil Sabil pledged that the government would take "firm and quick action" to alter what he called an anachronistic law.

Gay sex had been effectively legalised in 2009 when the Delhi High Court ruled that a section of the penal code prohibiting "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" was an infringement of fundamental rights.

But in a shock judgement on Wednesday, a panel of two Supreme Court judges ruled that the High Court had overstepped its authority and that a law passed in 1860 during British colonial rule was still valid.

"What we have done is go back in time to 1860 and I'm terribly disappointed," Chidambaram told the NDTV network.

"We must explore ways and means in which this judgement can be reversed very quickly. Legislation is one way to reverse it but that may take time.

"(While) not giving up that option of legislation, we must explore other ways and I am willing to sit with my colleagues to find out if there are other ways in which this judgement might be reversed."

Sibal confirmed that the government was considering its "options" to prevent millions of people being categorised as criminals.

"This is not a law that fits in with the times, you cannot have an antediluvian and anachronistic law like this," he told reporters.

"Time is of essence, we believe in taking quick action, the government believes in firm and quick action."

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