As the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality in a landmark ruling, there was a common theme running across the front pages of our national dailies - that of visible jubilation on the victory of a 'minuscule minority', and of silent elation at the basic civil rights being reinstated by the highest court of the land.
Playing on puns and alliterations, the tone of most newspaper headlines was not only congratulatory but also one of looking ahead: Most dailies took the view that getting the progressive judgment in their favour was only the first step to a long and hard journey to reclaim rights of the community. While some newspaper packages also included reactions from overwhelmed rights' and LGBTQ activists, most carried quotes from a brilliantly-worded concurring judgment, authored by four of five judges on the constitutional bench.
Most Hindi language dailies lead with straight quotes in headlines but resonated the common congratulatory tone.
The largest newspaper by circulation, The Times of India, led with the words 'Independence Day - II' smeared across top in bold with rainbow-coloured 'II' as it celebrated India's arrival in the 21st century. The headline was apparently a reference to the Constitution being freed of the shackles of a colonial-era law, formed at the time by Lord Macaulay, in keeping with the orthodox Christian sensibilities, with a single 'stroke of judicial wisdom'.
The strap read: "On 6/9/2018, at 12.25 pm, India Entered the 21st century. With one stroke of judicial wisdom, the Supreme Court flung the draconian 1860 colonial law that criminalised homosexuality into the dustbin of history and wrote a new freedom song... There are still many stern battles to be fought and won... For the moment, though, let's relish this milestone moment..."
The Supreme Court, in its judgment, had also argued that a law that satisfied victorian moralities had no place in the Indian Constitution. "Victorian morality must give way to constitutional morality as has been recognised in many of our judgments. Constitutional morality is the soul of the Constitution," said Justice RF Nariman.
The front page-package also included a forward-looking piece on the way ahead for the community, titled Now, time to give LGBTs marriage & parenting rights.
The newspaper's jacket, a few-inch wide column folded atop the front page, was full of reactions from members of the community and was titled RIP Prejudice.
The Times of India's city tabloid Mumbai Mirror carried a poignant image of the dawn with a rainbow cutting across the sky. The words, Liberty. Fraternity Equality, which frequently occurred in the voluminous 493-page judgment.
The Indian Express chose to pun on the phrase 'Love at first sight', carrying a picture of a gay man leaving a peck on the cheek of his partner, right outside the Supreme Court premises. The picture was indeed the first sighting of public display of affection by a homosexual couple, outside the same court of law that discarded their rights terming them a 'minuscule minority', five years ago. It was captioned, "A moment in history, 12.42 pm, outside Supreme Court of India"
The Indian Express also carried a piece sketching out how emotional the moment the ruling came out was for the community that continuously faced dereliction, societal bias and persecution. The piece was titled: On a street far away, looking at a police car in the eye: ‘Today, I am no criminal’
The DNA chose to keep the headlines simple and instead set the tone with an image. It led with a creative which had the words Section 377 fashioned like a lesbian couple kissing each other on the front page. The package headline was a straight reproduction of the news, but the first piece on the front page reflected that the judgment only paved the way for a long and arduous fight. The headline simply read, Still a long way to go.
The Hindustan Times headline read Rainbow Nation, with a hand holding an LGBTQ flag against the backdrop of the Supreme Court featured in black and white. The front page piece and headline were straight news pieces, but the bottom strap carrying the judges' quotes was labelled 'Justice is Served'. Its city supplement HT Cafe carried the headline Hail the pride.
Prominent Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar commented on the decriminalisation of consensual sex between adults with the words Gay ab Gairapradhi (Gays are no longer criminal. It carried reactions from across the political spectrum and a newspiece tracing the long battle for legal rights along with a picture of the gay couple.
Hindi paper Jansatta carried the headline Pyar par ab nahi koi pehra (Love is now free of restraints) with images of members of the LGBTQ community celebrating outside Supreme Court. Apart from celebrating the fact that India joined the list of 125 nations (the newspaper erroneously mentions 25 nations) who legalised homosexuality, it also briefly profiled the petitioners on its first page.
The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned its 2013 ruling which held that homosexuality was a crime owing to larger sensibilities. In a progressive judgment, the court held that the majoritarian morality cannot take precedence over constitutional morality, specifying that the majority cannot impose its way of life on others at the cost of their Fundamental Rights and basic civil liberties. In doing so, the court finally put to rest the recurring question of majoritarian sensibilities and morality as a benchmark to gauge society's civil rules — a clause that is likely to be quoted in civil rights cases for a long time to come. Reacting to the question of religion terming homosexuality a sin and, the court said that it only had powers to punish crimes committed on earth, which homosexuality is not, and not sins.
"Sin is not punishable on earth by Courts set up by the State but elsewhere; crime alone is punishable on earth," underlined Nariman.
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Updated Date: Sep 07, 2018 13:48:42 IST