New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday in a landmark decision decriminalised homosexuality by declaring Section 377, the penal provision which criminalised gay sex, as “manifestly arbitrary”. The verdict sparked celebrations amongst the LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex and queer/questioning) community across India.

A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Rohinton Fali Nariman, A M Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra, issued the verdict on a bunch of petitions filed to scrap the law.  (Catch LIVE Updates Here)

People across India were seen celebrating the decision and distributed sweets among themselves. Tears were also rolling down their cheeks while they wished each other.

“We have finally got justice. We are finally ‘azaad in azaad Hind’,” said Ashok Row Kavi, LGBT rights activist and founder of Humsafar Trust on Supreme Court legalises homosexuality

This judgment has given hope to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Filmmaker and gay activist Onir too welcomed the judgment. Many celebrities took to Twitter and hailed the judgment. “Historical judgment!!!! So proud today! Decriminalising homosexuality and abolishing #Section377 is a huge thumbs up for humanity and equal rights! The country gets its oxygen back,” tweets Karan Johar.

“As Supreme Court abolishes #Sec377, one pauses to reflect on the hundreds of activists, individuals, artists, lawyers who have sacrificed so much to achieve this victory. Thank you to the Hon’ble Supreme Court for this moment. But the fight is not over -1,” tweeted MP Gaurav Gogoi.

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “So pleased to learn that the Supreme Court has ruled against criminalising sexual acts in private. This decision vindicates my stand on Section 377& on exactly the same grounds of privacy, dignity &constitutional freedoms. It shames those BJP MPs who vociferously opposed me in LS.”

“A historic judgment as Sup Court decriminalises homosexuality and scraps #Sec377. India has always moved with the times and this is another shining example. Great moment for the #LGBT community,” tweeted Dinesh Gundu Rao, president of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee.

The top court delivering separate but concurring judgments said it is the constitutional and not social morality which will prevail. Chief Justice Dipak Misra, also speaking for Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, said attitude and mentality have to change to accept the others’ identity and accept what they are and not what they should be.

Justice Rohinton Nariman, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra delivered concurring judgments thereby making the verdict of the five-judge bench a unanimous one.

The Bench had been hearing pleas challenging the validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). This year, in July 2018, the Bench had re-opened the issue, saying a section of people could not live in fear of the law. The apex court heard the writ petitions filed by dancer Navtej Jauhar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hoteliers Aman Nath and Keshav Suri and business executive Ayesha Kapur and 20 former and current IIT students. They had sought decriminalization of consensual sex between two consenting adults of the same sex by declaring section 377 of IPC as illegal and unconstitutional. On July 17, the Bench had asserted that it will not wait for a “majoritarian government” to decide on enacting, amending or striking down a law that tends to violate the fundamental rights.