New Delhi: The UPA government Thursday expressed "deep disappointment" over the Supreme Court verdict and said it was considering all options to restore a Delhi High Court order legalizing gay sex.
The government reaction came as gay activists and rights groups protested the Wednesday ruling upholding a law banning gay sex. The US too voiced concern while Human Rights Watch called it a setback to human dignity.
The opposition was divided. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not take a clear stand. The Aam Aadmi Party asked the apex court to review the judgment. The Samajwadi Party came out in support of the Supreme Court.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the government may go for a review petition or curative petition on the apex court order upholding article 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which classifies gay sex as a crime.
United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said she was disappointed the Supreme Court had reversed the 2009 high court ruling and hoped parliament would address the issue.
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said he agreed with the high court verdict and said homosexuality was a matter of individual choice.
Chidambaram said the government and the Congress were on the same page.
"My government's views and the party's views are quite clear. We accept the interpretation put forward by the high court," he said.
Sibal said the government was considering "all options to restore the high court verdict on article 377. We must decriminalise adult consensual relationships", he tweeted.
The IPC, which dates back to the British Raj, says "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" is a punishable offence.
Chidambaram said it was not too late to ask the court to reconsider the decision through a curative petition.
"If the court option goes, then legislative option always remains. But I don't think that this option can be exercised in this session of parliament."
Sonia Gandhi hoped parliament would uphold the constitutional guarantee of life and liberty to citizens including those directly affected by the Supreme Court judgment.
"We are proud that our culture has always been an inclusive and tolerant one," she said.
"There is no need to be so disappointed. The Supreme Court has said the government can frame a law," BJP's Sushma Swaraj said, responding to a question on Gandhi's statement.
"Call an all-party meeting, draft a proposal. Just saying it is unfortunate won't serve any purpose.
"We will react when we see the government's proposal. We cannot react to the apex court judgment," she added.