Government on Thursday promised urgent steps to overturn the Supreme Court ruling declaring homosexuality as illegal amid indications that it could file a curative petition in the apex court.
"We will have to change the law. If the Supreme Court has upheld that law, then we will certainly have to take firm steps. Change has to be made fast and any delay cannot take place. We will use all means available to make changes at the earliest," Law Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters here in the wake of an uproar over the ruling.
Asked whether government could bring a legislation to amend section 377 of the IPC, he said at this stage "time is of the essence. We must decriminalise adult consensual relationships."
Responding to questions on the options available with the government, he said "one of the opinion could be to bring it to Parliament at the earliest. The other opinion could be to approach the Supreme Court or take any other route. We will adopt the approach which will give us quick results." Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the Supreme Court ruling was "wrong" and all options would be looked at to set right the apex court order.
Terming the judgement "disappointing", he said the court should have applied "current social and moral values" in the case.
He said the government should file a review or curative petition and that the matter should be heard by a five-bench judge.
Chidambaram, the former Home Minister, said the Delhi High Court judgement was a "well-researched one" which the Union government accepted and did not challenge in the Supreme Court.
He noted that the bench that gave the order, should have referred the matter to a five-judge bench and that the interpretation of law cannot be static.
When asked why the government did not amend section 377 while amending the rape laws in the wake of Delhi gang-rape incident, Chidambaram said the High Court judgment laid down section 377 only in a limited manner.
"They decriminalised homosexuality only among consenting adults and in private. Therefore, there was no need to amend section 377...section 377 can remain, because between two non -consenting adults it still remains a crime.
"So, there was no occasion to amend the section. And the amendment of the section was necessary only after the final announcement of the judgment. The case was pending in the Supreme Court and there was no occasion to amend it," he said.
He said the government's decision of not opposing the High Court judgement in the Supreme Court was also his party's view.
Expressing similar views, Sibal said millions of people are effected by the judgement. "And I don't think we should expose those millions to section 377 of the IPC and we are very firm about this."
He said in 21st century archaic laws of the nature that are relfected in section 377 should stay as part of the penal code. "I think these laws must be reversed and contemporaty world do not accept the values of the 19th century." Responding to suggestions that flip flops by the government in the past had resulted in the SC verdict, Sibal insisted that there was "absolutely" no flip flop.
"In fact, the Attorney General appeared for us in the Supreme Court. He made elaborate arguments supporting the judgement of the High Court. He also filed written submissions and the Government of India took a very firm position that the judgement of the High Court needs to be sustained and this law is anachronistic and there is absolutely no flip flop as far as the Government of India is concerned.
"There will no flip flop in any event because we are absolutly firm on decriminalisation of adult consensual relationships," he said.