A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously decriminalised part of the 158-year-old colonial law under Section 377 of the IPC which criminalises consensual unnatural sex, saying it violated the rights to equality.
As legal experts pointed out, changing this colonial law was nearly a foregone conclusion after a nine-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court ruled in August 2017 that privacy is a fundamental right.
Dealing with a clutch of petitions, it held that section 377 was used as a weapon to harass members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community, resulting in discrimination.
"India was the most populous country in the world that still had a law on the books criminalizing gay sex".
Justice Indu Malhotra said that history in her opinion owes the LGBT community an apology for discrimination and ostracism, while Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said he believes that the LGBT community is entitled to equal citizenship and equal rights under the Constitution, India Today reported.
Many cut cakes and unfurled rainbow flags, a symbol of gay pride, to welcome the verdict, which also said society can not dictate a sexual relationship between consenting adults. The decision stated that social regulations can not function with the liberties of the constitution and granted constitutional rights to everybody without bringing up civils rights.
Section 377 has consigned a group of citizens to the margins. "The recognition of equal citizenship, that is the business of life, so that they know they are loved, protected".
In January this year, Supreme Court said a larger group of judges would re-consider the previous judgment (which reinforced criminalisation of homosexuality) and examine Section 377's constitutional validity.
Meanwhile, the Congress has tweeted congratulatory messages, welcoming "the progressive and decisive verdict of the Supreme Court", even though Congress President Rahul Gandhi has himself not shared his thoughts yet.
Quoting from his judgment, he said, "LGBT individuals as well as those who do not conform to societal expectations of sexual behaviour defy gender stereotypes". "If you follow a very formalistic "Rule of Law" approach the word "only" means the moment you discriminate against an individual on the ground of sex and something else, that discrimination is valid", he said.
The decision of the Supreme Court has garnered reactions from many quarters, from United Nations to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Activists who have spearheaded the decades long battle to win gay rights said overturning the law is an historic decision, but only a first step in winning gay rights.
"For the first time since independence the gay community in the country is experiencing freedom in the real sense", Gohil told AFP.