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Police feel free to book offenders

New Delhi, Dec. 11: Delhi police officers said today they would start booking offenders under Section 377 of the IPC, with the apex court upholding the provision that makes unnatural sex a crime.

“We will now book offenders under the section as the high court order has been set aside by the apex court,” a senior officer said.

He expressed inability to specify “off hand” the number of such cases prior to the July 2009 Delhi High Court order but described the number as “small”. “We had prosecuted offenders in the past but the number is small.”

But gay rights groups allege the law has often been misused by cops as a tool of harassment. “This law is mainly used by the police to harass gay couples and extort money. Few people have been prosecuted,” said Manish, among those protesting today at Jantar Mantar against the Supreme Court order.

Lawyers agreed only a handful of cases had been filed, except those related to alleged paedophilia. “I can’t remember anybody having been prosecuted for gay sex,” said M.S. Khan, a trial court lawyer.

The apex court also stressed the “minuscule” number of cases — but to make the point that the colonial-era provision was not as widely misused as claimed.

The bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhyaya said data provided by the Centre, NGOs and others revealed that only a “minuscule” 200-odd persons had been booked for the offence in the past 150 years. Hence, by no yardstick could it be construed as a misuse of the provision by law-enforcing authorities, the bench said.

A senior IPS officer said his teams had received complaints about “unnatural sex” in some Delhi parks after 2009 but could not take action because of the high court ruling. “We used to receive complaints from some parks in the capital, frequented by gay couples, that some people indulged in unnatural sex. But we couldn’t take any action because of the ruling.”

The LGBT community said they had planned protests in parts of Delhi today but claimed the police denied permission. “We are not going back into the closet,” said one protester at Jantar Mantar. A cop nearby said: “Now the law will take its own course.”