A colonial-era law that made homosexuality a crime would remain in effect in India, a top court ruled yesterday, demoralising gays who have argued for years for the chance to live openly in the conservative society.
The Supreme Court threw out a 2009 New Delhi High Court decision that struck down the law as unconstitutional, saying it was for legislators — and not the courts — to decide the matter.
After the ruling was issued, dozens of activists outside the court started crying and hugging each other in consolation.
"This is a very sad day for us, we are back to square one in our fight for the democratic rights of the gay community," said Ashok Row Kavi of the activist group Humsafar Trust.
Lawyers and supporters for gays vowed to continue to fight the law that they said encouraged police harassment, even if it was rarely invoked by prosecutors.
"We feel very let down," lawyer Anand Grover said. "But our fight is not over and we will continue to fight for the constitutional right."
Grover, who had argued the case, said the Supreme Court's decision was "not correct in law".
He said the non-governmental NAZ Foundation that had taken up the matter in the court, would file a petition for a review of the top court's decision.
The 2009 high court ruling outraged conservative religious groups, who argued in an appeal that gay sex was unnatural and India should maintain the law, dating back to the 1860s when Britain ruled.
The law states that "whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" faced up to 10 years in prison.