New Delhi, Jul 11:  The Supreme Court on Wednesday will continue hearing a batch of petitions against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalises homosexual activities. During the previous hearing on Monday, a five-judge Constitutional bench had refused to adjourn the hearing after the Centre sought more time to file its reply.

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to wade into the issue of marriage in the LGBT groups or inheritance in their live-in relationships, as it began hearing a clutch of petitions challenging a 158-year-old colonial-era law that criminalises gay sex.

In the judgment on privacy as a fundamental right, the apex court’s nine-judge bench had said the right to privacy cannot be denied to members of the LGBTQ community merely because they have unconventional sexual orientation and form a minuscule fraction of over 1.32 billion Indian population.

At the outset, the court said it would only deal with the question of the validity of section 377 that bans homosexuality after it was submitted by a petitioner that it should not restrict the hearing to just this IPC provision. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said it will examine the correctness of its 2013 verdict setting aside the Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising gay sex under section 377.

The apex court had refused to defer the hearing after the Centre sought more time to file replies on the PILs.

After the apex court had set aside the Delhi High Court’s 2009 judgement decriminalising sex between consenting adults of the same sex by holding Section 377 of IPC as “illegal”, review petitions were filed. On their dismissal, curative petitions were filed by the affected parties seeking a re-examination of the original verdict.

During the pendency of the curative petitions, the plea was made that an open court hearing should be granted and after the apex court agreed to it, several fresh writ petitions were filed seeking to decriminalise of Section 377.

Others who have filed petitions against section 377 are journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hotelier Aman Nath and business executive, Ayesha Kapur.

(With agencies inputs)