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The Delhi High Court decriminalised gay sex in 2009, but the Supreme Court reinstated legal sanctions in 2014 after a successful appeal by religious groups.

In its ruling, the court said sexual orientation was a "biological phenomenon" and that any discrimination on that basis violated fundamental rights.

This isn't the first time that Section 377 was struct down. A senior party member, Shashi Tharoor, said the "government has no space in bedrooms as this is a private act between consenting adults".

Reading down Section 377 IPC, the Constitution Bench said its provision will however continue to govern sexual acts against minors besides acts of bestiality.

The verdict came as a major victory for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community that has been fighting for 17 years to get consensual gay sex legalised.

"History owes an apology to members of the community for the delay in ensuring their rights for denying them their rights and compelling them to live a life of fear", said Justice Indu Malhotra.

"I am astounded at people who say that we can not get these rights", said Sunil Mehra, a petitioner in the section 377 case told the Hindustan Times. Calling it an "unnatural offense" the law made gay sex punishable with up to 10 years in prison.

"So proud today! Decriminalizing homosexuality and abolishing section 377 is a huge thumb up for humanity and equal rights!"

"The law had become a weapon for harassment for the LGBT community", Chief Justice Dipak Misra said as he announced the landmark verdict.

They had sought decriminalisation of consensual sex between two consenting adults of the same sex by declaring Section 377 _ enacted 158 years ago _ illegal and unconstitutional.

"We cannot change history but can pave a way for a better future", said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

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The apex court noted that India is a signatory of global treaties on rights of LGBTQ and it was obligatory to adhere to them.

The Lalit hotel's Keshav Suri, one of the court's petitioners, entered the lobby to rousing applause, gave his husband a peck on the cheek and declared: "It is time to celebrate".

This was overturned in 2013 by the apex court which also dismissed the review plea against which the curative petitions were filed.

The top court's historic judgment triggered widespread celebrations among sections of civil society, human rights and the LGBT community.

"Constitutional morality can not be martyred at the altar of social morality", Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, reading out the verdict.

The other challenge that lies ahead for LGBT members will be with respect to acceptance in jobs and in family gatherings.

"It is a start". And we'll fight for our rights, definitely.

"We are finally not criminals and this minuscule minority has an identity now", is how gender and sexuality rights activist Arpit Bhalla put it.

Activists hope the scrapping of the ban will uphold the right to equality but many acknowledged that discrimination would persist.

Lawyer Anand Grover, who was representing Naz Foundation against Section 377, talks to the media after the Supreme Court verdict.

Thursday's judgement is a shot in the arm for India's gay community.


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