Section 377 verdict: Few media groups accuse SC of 'egregious excess', Urdu newspapers underplay judgment
The right-wing and Urdu newspapers semed unimpressed with the landmark Supreme Court judgment reading Section 377 and legalising homosexuality with some accusing the apex court of committing egregious excess and others underplaying it
The Supreme Court on Thursday decriminalised homosexuality, terming parts of Section 377 which criminalised carnal intercourse as not only "arbitrary" but also violative of the fundamental rights of equality, expression, liberty and life guaranteed in the Constitution.
The landmark judgment received appreciation from both the media as well as liberals and intellectuals across the country. However, a section of the media seemed unimpressed with the judgment.
Urdu newspapers showed varied interest in the verdict. However, none of them carried any opinion article. Inquilab's Mumbai edition had no mention of the Section 377 verdict, while its Delhi edition covered it on the front page, but there was no opinion article on the same. Hind Samachar, another Urdu daily, published an article on the front page in its main edition, but there was no opinion on the verdict either.
Urdu Times Daily quoted Dar-ul-Uloom Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani as saying that all religions have prohibited homosexuality, and that it does not accept the Supreme Court order. He also asked religious bodies in India to take legal recourse against the verdict, according to the report. Again, there was no opinion piece on the verdict.
Daily Sahafat, another Urdu newspapers which has editions in Mumbai, Delhi and Lucknow gave more space to the Section 377 verdict than other Urdu newspapers with the Delhi edition having interviews from local maulvis slamming the verdict. There was no op-ed on the topic though.
Siasat Daily, a prominent Urdu newspaper in the south, mentioned the verdict briefly. But again, no opinion article was written on the same.
There were no comments from LGBT activists in Urdu newspapers.
News portal OPIndia.com called the victory "impermanent" and attacked the Left for calling the BJP government 'intolerant'. The opinion article, which ran the headline, "Today, an ‘intolerant’ India emancipated the tolerant", didn't shy away from applauding the government.
It criticised the 493-page judgment as "infantile ramble" and "senile rant" while accusing the apex court of committing "egregious excess" and opposing the view that the criminalisation of gay sex was based on “majoritarianism”.
The article goes on to say that the Supreme Court verdict on Section 377 was not because of the LGBTQ campaign by the gay community but rather because of "the fundamentally liberal nature of the Indian People expressed through the organs of the Indian state, restraining the government from opposing and stiffening the supreme courts notoriously weak spine".
Swarajya, a magazine which describes itself as "a big tent for liberal right of centre discourse", discussed the Section 377 verdict in the light of Hinduism. Blaming Christianity for the archaic law, the author emphasised on how Hinduism was more tolerant to homosexuality. Drawing references to the Bible, it said that "they (British colonial government) brought in the legislation (Section 370), in fact, because they thought 'native' cultures did not punish 'perverse' sex enough".
Speaking of Manu Smriti, which specifies punishment for homosexuality, the author argues that "the most stringent punishment (for homosexuality), that of cutting off two fingers (or shaving the head and riding a donkey), is prescribed for an older woman who has had a relationship with a young virgin (ibid, 8:370). But the concern here is on virginity, not homosexuality."
Saamana, the Marathi mouthpiece of Shiv Sena, has no mention of the Section 377 verdict in its op-ed. It ran a small single column article announcing the verdict, but that is all.
Among English newspapers, most including the The Times of India, The Indian Express, The Hindu, etc, ran detailed coverage on the verdict.
Playing on puns and alliterations, the tone of most English newspaper headlines was not only congratulatory but also one of looking ahead.
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 led with straight quotes in headlines but resonated the common congratulatory tone.
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