Gay rights activists were on Wednesday up in arms against the Supreme Court verdict that upheld a law criminalising homosexuality, calling it a "black day' for the LGBT community and vowed to carry on the fight to restore their rights including seeking its review.
As members of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community expressed shock and disappointment at the verdict, Additional Solicitor General of Indira Jaisingh threw her weight behind them, saying the court position is an imposition of "medieval mindset" on the people of the country.
She questioned its "double standards" of the apex court in dealing with human rights issues after it quashed a 2009 Delhi High Court verdict and made gay sex illegal and a punishable offence again under Section 377 IPC.
She raised question as to why the court put the ball in the court of legislature to decide on the issue when so many other matters and policies are being reviewed by it.
"Historical opportunity to expand constitutional values has been lost," Jaising said, adding, "It is surprising that the court, which does judicial review on many issues, has put the ball in the court of Parliament to decide on homosexuality."
"What surprises me is the double standards here. When it is a question of human rights, why send it to the Parliament when the Supreme Court is itself the observer of the human rights," she commented after the verdict.
Anjali Gopalan, founder of a NGO Naz Foundation that was the first to file the petition for decriminalising section 377, said she was "shocked" by the ruling.
"This is taking many, many steps back. The Supreme Court has not just let down the LGBT. community but the Constitution of India."
"The verdict was totally unexpected from the top court. It is a black day for the community," Arvind Narayan, a lawyer of the Alternative Law Forum gay rights group, told reporters.
Gay rights activists who were inside the courtroom were visibly upset while some outside broke down and hugged each other in consolation.
Advocate Anand Grover, who had argued the case, said Naz Foundation would file a petition for a review of the top court's decision.
Government on its part said it will have to abide by the verdict.
"We have to abide by the decision," Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said.
"The opinion of the Supreme Court has to be respected by the government," Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal said.
The judgement was, however, welcomed by Amod Kanth, General Secretary of Prayas, who was one of the petitioners against the Delhi High Court verdict.
Kanth said 377 was the only protection for sexual offences against a male or a male child. It was also a protection against unnatural sex and bestiality, he said.
"In India, there is protection for sexual offences against a male or male child except for this Section. Around 97 per cent of such offence are made against the male child in the country," said Kanth, a former Chairman of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR).
He said decriminalisation of Section 377 would have denied the child's basic rights to family and impeded his normal development, as two male or two female don't constitute a family.
S Q R Ilyas, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board which had filed a petition in the case asking that the high court ruling be reversed, praised the verdict.
"These relationships are unethical as well as unnatural," Ilyas said. "They create problems in society, both moral and social. This is a sin as far as Islam is concerned." Yoga guru Ramdev welcomed the judgement, saying it respects the sentiments of religious communities of the country.
"The Supreme Court has respected the sentiments of the various religious communities of India. Today they are talking of homosexuality, tomorrow they will talk of having sex with animals," he said, calling homosexuality a disease.
Noted author Vikram Seth said he was astonished at the apex court verdict especially after the Delhi High Court came out with a "carefully worded" judgment.
Supreme Court lawyer and AAP leader Prashant Bhushan said it was a "bay day" for liberal values in the country.
"We are back into the dungeon all over again," gay rights activist Pallav Patankar said.