January,4,2015: Days after demitting office, former Supreme Court Judge Vikramjit Sen said it is time to do away with Section 377 of the IPC, which makes gay sex, irrespective of age and consent, an offence punishable with a sentence up to life term.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Justice Sen, who retired on December 30, also said that secularism means “not recognising any religion”, and stressed the need for a uniform civil code.
“It is time for Section 377 to go. The society is mature enough to make its choices and exercise sexual preferences in private.
Why a penal law and a court have to regulate what you do in private? Personal choices are to be validated if they do not violate anybody else’s rights,” he said.
“Secularism does not mean recognising all religions. It means not recognising any religion. This is why the uniform civil code is a major step towards attaining true secularism. Why should personal laws be allowed to trample upon civil rights? After all, religion is a private affair. Why should the state recognise any religion,” he said.
Recalling how he had nudged the government to initiate the process of consultation on the uniform civil code when a petition relating to divorce under the Christian law came up before him, he said a majority government must “strive towards it”.
“I believe most of the religions and communities are ready for it. And the rest can be brought on board by assuring them of a meeting ground after a broad based dialogue. The uniform code will be helpful for women in particular,” he said.
Asked about the debate on intolerance, he refrained from commenting on the “politics of it”. Secularism, he said, entails unqualified tolerance to all thoughts and beliefs.
“It is only through secularism and tolerance that our country will reach great heights. What the Islamic State (IS) is doing today is a sign of intolerance. And therefore, it must also be highlighted that the Muslim community in India has opposed the propaganda and methods of the IS. You have to provide a sense of inclusiveness to everyone,” he said.
Justice Sen, who is from Delhi, also commended the fact that the issue of pollution in the national capital has taken centrestage. “I am hopeful all the deliberations and attempts will lead to some positive results. The success, or otherwise, of the odd-even policy is yet to be seen so it will not be prudent to comment on it. But the fact that the issue of pollution has triggered debates and generated awareness is definitely encouraging,” he said.
Justice Sen was associated with many important verdicts, the latest being the approval of the Kerala government’s policy to ban consumption of liquor in public and restriction of bar licences. Earlier, he also held that a single mother can be appointed as the sole guardian of a child. He also gave rulings on expediting the land acquisition process, and was part of the bench that ruled against quota in super-speciality medical courses.