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Frown on 377 barbs

- SC raps ministers for criticism but rules out action

New Delhi, Jan. 3: The Supreme Court today dismissed a public interest litigation that urged it to disqualify the Union ministers who had criticised its order re-criminalising gay sex, but expressed displeasure at their conduct.

Ministers Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram had criticised the judgment, delivered last month, and expressed the resolve to frame amendments to get around it.

Besides the two, the petition had sought the disqualification of Union minister Milind Deora and Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah for their criticism.

The bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi agreed with petitioner Purushotham Mulloli that the statements were unwarranted but said they could not entertain the plea for disqualification or guidelines to restrain them from similar utterances in the future.

“They are holding high posts and they have a responsibility. They have very casually made the statements. We take it as unwarranted comments,” the bench said after going through the comments of Sibal, Chidambaram, Deora and Abdullah.

The judges said the statement by finance minister Chidambaram was not very objectionable but some of the remarks by the others were not in good taste.

Mulloli argued the ministers had violated their oath of “upholding the Constitution and law of the land” by criticising the order. “The ministers have violated their oath of office and therefore their appointments are unconstitutional and illegal,” his plea said.

The Delhi resident was one of those whose petitions led to the December 11 judgment. They had challenged a Delhi High Court order striking down parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises sex that goes against “the order of nature”.

“We agree they are all unwarranted comments. We also agree that these statements cannot be accepted. We agree with your sentiments. Persons occupying high positions must realise their responsibility,” Justice Sathasivam told the petitioner’s counsel, Pankaj Kumar.

“We are conveying our displeasure. We appreciate your anxiety. Beyond that we cannot entertain your… petition.”

Later, the court said in a written order: “Though the statements made are not appreciated, we are not inclined to entertain the writ petition. Except showing our displeasure, we cannot do anything.”

Mulloli had earlier accused the Centre of adopting conflicting stands on Section 377. He claimed that while the home ministry had defended the provision, the health ministry had opposed it.

The apex court judgment, which overturned the July 2009 high court verdict, had triggered nationwide protests. The Centre and gay rights activists later moved review petitions in the apex court.

Mulloli contended that while the Centre had the right to amend the law, the ministers should respect the verdict rather than attack it.