New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on a clutch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of section 377 of Indian Penal Code which criminalizes consensual same-gender sex. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra concluded hearing the arguments on the contentious issue after detailed hearing of four days, which had commenced on 10th July.

The bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, asked the parties to file written submissions in support of their claims by July 20. The verdict is likely to be pronounced before October 2 this year as Justice Misra would be retiring as CJI on that day.

The writ petitions challenging the criminalization of consensual sex between two same-sex adults were filed by dancer Navtej Jauhar, journalist Sunil Mehra, chef Ritu Dalmia, hoteliers Aman Nath, Keshav Suri, business executive Ayesha Kapur and 20 former and current students of the IITs. The apex court agreed to hear these petitions, rejecting the centre's plea seeking postponement of the proceedings by four weeks.

The petitions are being opposed by Apostolic Alliance of Churches, Utkal Christian Association and some other NGOs and individuals including Suresh Kumar Kaushal, a Delhi-based astrologer who runs the Tarunaditya Astrological Center in the state capital.

Naaz Foundation, an NGO in 2001 had first raised this issue in the Delhi High Court which had, in turn, decriminalized sex between consenting adults of the same gender and held this provision illegal 2009. But this high court judgment was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013 and restored section 377 of IPC after Kaushal challenged the 2009 verdict.

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