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Sonia triggers gay rights chorus
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New Delhi, Dec. 12: The Congress today came out in full force to express disappointment at the Supreme Court’s observation on gay rights and directed the Manmohan Singh government to “take immediate corrective steps”, the lightning response leaving even party leaders surprised.

Barely hours after Sonia Gandhi issued a statement expressing her disappointment over the Supreme Court’s position, Rahul Gandhi, too, made a rare appearance before the media, echoing similar sentiments.

It is probably the first time both Sonia and Rahul spoke up on an issue on the same day, though they did talk about the recent election losses together a few days ago.

Sources said Sonia had told the government to “take immediate corrective steps”.

Their statements came after senior ministers P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal had already clarified the stand of the party and the government.

In her statement, Sonia said: “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has reversed a previous Delhi High Court ruling on the issue of gay rights. The high court had wisely removed an archaic, repressive and unjust law that infringed on the basic human rights enshrined in our Constitution.”

In its 2009 judgment, Delhi High Court had not “removed” the archaic law. It had declared that IPC Section 377 that criminalises consensual acts of adults in private, violated personal liberty.

“This Constitution has given us a great legacy, a legacy of liberalism and openness, that enjoin us to combat prejudice and discrimination of any kind. We are proud that our culture has always been an inclusive and tolerant one. The Supreme Court also suggested another course. I hope that the Parliament will address this issue and uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to all citizens of India, including those directly affected by this judgment,” Sonia said.

Rahul, who spoke to the media a few hours later, said: “I personally believe that these are matters of personal freedom. I think, I would agree more with the high court verdict. I think these matters should be left to the individuals. These are personal choices. This country is known for its freedom, freedom of expression. So let that be.”

The Congress vice-president, who came out after several days to denounce the ordinance to protect convicted politicians, also took time to speak on the Delhi gang rape.

The alacrity with which the top leadership reacted on this issue surprised many leaders and some wondered if the party would address vital issues with the same kind of energy and speed henceforth.

Although many leaders hailed their decision to take a stand on a sensitive issue that is related to freedom of choice, some disapproved of the decision to send out statements by both Sonia and Rahul, wondering if this was the most important national issue.

However, it is certain now that the government would take steps to restore the high court order decriminalising gay sex and various options are being considered. The most probable course is to file a curative petition before the Supreme Court as there is no time left to draft a an amendment to be passed in this session of the Parliament.

Legislation such as the Lokpal bill, women’s reservation and insurance, in addition to several ordinances, are to be passed on a priority basis at a time when this session is yet to have a single normal working day so far. The next session will be more or less a technical meeting for adopting vote-on-account before the general election.

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