India’s Supreme Court ruling against gay sex is being met with criticism from a growing number of politicians in the country.

On Wednesday, India’s Supreme Court upheld a law which criminalises gay sex, in a ruling seen as a major blow to gay rights.

The court ruling reverses a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised same-sex sexual activity.

The Supreme Court stated that only India’s Parliament could change the law, by deleting a section of the penal code dating back to the 19th century, thus ruling that the Delhi High Court had overstepped its powers with its decision four years ago.

Section 377 of India’s penal code bans “sex against the order of nature”, which is widely interpreted to mean gay sex, and can be punished with up to 10 years in jail – although at the moment prosecutions remain rare.

India’s Law Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters the government would respect the ruling but did not say whether there were plans to amend the law. Correspondents say any new legislation is unlikely soon – general elections are due next year.

However, politicians and LGBT campaigners in India have criticised the ruling.

“This decision is a body-blow to people’s rights to equality, privacy and dignity,” said G Ananthapadmanabhan, of Amnesty International India.

“It is hard not to feel let down by this judgment, which has taken India back several years in its commitment to protect basic rights,” he added.

MP Shivanand Tiwari said: “I am not in agreement with the Supreme Court decision. The High Court decision was a well thought and scientific one. The apex court can reverse [the] lower court decision but I do not think this decision is a better one”.

MP Derek O’Brien said: “We are living today in a liberal world and the judgment is disappointing. Earlier in 2006, there was a letter written and signed by Amartya Sen, Vikram Seth, Shyam Benegal and myself among others on it. Because sometimes the court does very interesting views [sic] on red lights, I think it does same thing on gay rights.”

MP Mani Shankar Aiyar said the ruling requires “serious thought” because there must be equality for all human beings and “these kind of preferences are almost built into your genes”.

Reaction is coming in from politicians across Europe too.

Sir Graham Watson MEP, Chair of the EU-India Parliamentary Delegation and Member of the LGBT Intergroup, said: “It is shameful that this colonial law, which we Britons are sadly responsible for, will enter into force again.”

“I call on our colleagues in the Parliament of India to take bold and urgent action, and finally repeal Section 377 for good.”

Ulrike Lunacek MEP, Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup, added: “I am shocked by this major step back by the Indian Supreme Court. This doesn’t speak well of the world’s largest democracy, where LGBT people must be able to live their lives without fear of being arrested or prosecuted.”

“This is one closet door that won’t close again, and I’m confident Parliament will eventually overturn today’s ruling. All EU Member States and High Representative Catherine Ashton must insist on full decriminalisation of homosexuality immediately.”

Purna Sen, Chair of the Kaleidoscope Trust and former Head of Human Rights at the Commonwealth, said: “The Supreme Court’s ruling is a terrible setback for the struggle to secure equal rights for LGBT people, not just in India, but in many of the Commonwealth countries that still enforce colonial era restrictions on the liberties of LGBT people.

“The 2009 ruling that read the ban on same-sex relationships as being at odds with the Constitution, acted as a real beacon for hope in the Commonwealth. Today’s ruling, sadly, is a set back for India and sets a worrying precedent.”