India’s Supreme Court said Tuesday it would hear arguments in open court on whether to reconsider a December decision upholding the country’s colonial-era sodomy law, known as Section 377.
This is LGBTI rights advocates last chance to toss out the decision, which was a harsh blow after a 12-year litigation process. In January, a two-judge panel (which included one of the judges who issued the original ruling) rejected their first attempt to have the case reconsidered, what is known as a review petition. The current motion, known as a curative petition, still faces long odds, because the five-judge panel that will consider it includes the two judges who rejected the review petition. The other judges on the panel will be the three most senior judges on the court.
But the lawyers in this case got a major boost last week when a different two-judge Supreme Court panel issued a sweeping verdict recognizing broad rights for transgender people. Though the judges in the transgender rights case were careful to explicitly say they were not offering an opinion on the 377 case, their ruling reads almost like a point-by-point rebuttal to the ruling.
“We’ve got our day in court,” said Arvind Narrain, a Bangalore-based lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum who has been working on the 377 litigation. “This is a bit of hope.”
The curative petition process is still relatively new, having only been created in 2002. It is only available in cases where the court believes the original ruling in a case violated fundamental rights. Only a handful of these petitions have succeeded.
The court is expected to set a date for the rehearing next week.