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First man acquitted of ‘gay sex’ charges since India decriminalized homosexuality

First man acquitted of ‘gay sex’ charges since India decriminalized homosexuality

Two men embrace at Bhubaneswar Pride in the eastern Indian state of Odisha

A man has had charges of  ‘unnatural offences’ against him dropped, making him the first acquitted of the law since India decriminalized homosexuality.

In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India overturned Section 377 of the Penal Code which criminalized ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature’. The law targeted men who have sex with men. But Supreme Court judges ruled it unconstitutional and that it violated the right to privacy. Last year’s verdict became the biggest decriminalization verdict in history.

The man’s wife made a complaint about him to police who charged him under 377. According to the Times of India, his wife learnt of his sexuality a few years after their 1994 wedding.

She lodged a formal complaint against him at a local police station in 2009.
In the subsequent years, judges dismissed the other complaints against the man by his wife. Those charges included, cruelty to wife by husband or his relative and punishment for causing voluntary hurt. But no judge discharged the man from the 377 charge.

On Wednesday (30 January) the Bombay High Court ruled to let the man off the 377 charge.
‘In the present case, both had an extra-marital consensual relationship,’ Justice Bhaktar said in the ruling.

‘Though it may be a ground for divorce for cruelty to the wife, it does not constitute an offence under section 377 because both are adults and had sexual relations by consent.

‘The complainant is an aggrieved person but she cannot be called a victim under 377.’