India's top court has struck down a colonial-era law that makes homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The court gave its ruling Thursday on a petition filed by five people who challenged the law, saying they are living in fear of being harassed and prosecuted by police.

In 2009, a New Delhi High Court declared unconstitutional Section 377 of the law, which says intercourse between members of the same sex is against the order of nature. But the judgment was overturned by the Supreme Court, which says amending or repealing the law should be left to Parliament.

But the government left it to the court to decide the validity of the law dealing with consensual sexual acts between two adults.

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The court announced its verdict in Delhi on Thursday morning, local time (Thursday evening in New Zealand).

It drew loud cheers from a crowd of LGBTI Indians and supporters gathered outside the court.

This is one of the longest running battles in the world for gay rights.


-- With AP