The Supreme Court today struck down a historic Delhi High Court judgement which had decriminalised homesexual acts between consenting adults. The Supreme Court verdict was read out by Justice GS Singhvi, who incidentally also retires today, in the court of chief justice of India as is tradition for a retiring judge.
Singhvi ruled that the courts do not have the the appropriate authority to strike down the section 377 which criminalises homosexual acts and that it was the parliament which has to legislate upon the matter.
The verdict has left many gay rights activists disappointed and feeling that it is a black day in India’s judicial history.
Arvind Narrain who is a lawyer working with the Alternative Law Forum, says that where the verdict is concerned, “We’re deeply disappointed. We’ve been betrayed and this is a black day in the history justice. In essence the SC is saying that gays, lesbians, bisexuals are not citizens of this country. The court has tried to stem the tide of history with a judgement like this and turn the page back.”
Ashok Row Kavi, who works with Hamsafar trust in Mumbai which has extensively worked on the issue of LGBT rights called the judgement, “Retrograde, anti-progressive.” He points out that “The Delhi High Court judgement was not about public morality but rather constitutional morality and the SC decision today has thrown it all into a bin.”
Gautam Bhan, author of the book, “Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India”, said that the verdict needs to be examined carefully and that one needs to look at all the options. As far as the movement is concerned, he says, “We will continue the protests. The first thing we will do try and reassure the community that they are still citizens of this country.”
Gaurav Ghosh, a student at JNU and member of SFI is someone who has worked extensively on the issue of gay rights both in the campus and beyond, says that the judgement is disappointing. “The Delhi High Court judgement was a ray of hope. The current judgement is absurd.”
Where the impact of the verdict goes, Bhan says that,“This is the first time that a Justice of a Supreme Court has taken the rights away from people after they were granted by the Delhi High Court. The journey will continue for us. The judgement has reduced the dignity and equality of members of the LGBT community.”
He also added, “I find the judgement quite astonishing coming from the same justice who recently quoted Nehru while passing the decision on red beacons for VIPs and had said, “there can be no two classes of citizens in this country.” The reversal is astonishing indeed.”
Bhan feels that for now the primary responsibility is towards the LGBT community and to assure them that the fight for their rights will continue.
In Kavi’s opinion, the judgement also has global impact for the image of India as a progressive nation. “India was being looked upon as a model for the former colonies. From Sri Lanka to Pakistan to Singapore to Hong Kong. This judgement will be shocking. The question is where is India going? India has gone back at least 30 years by this judgment,” he says.
“The issue is beyond fundamental rights. It’s like saying we don’t have the sinner, we hate the sin. We don’t hate women, we hate feminism,” Kavi adds.
On the way forward, Narrain says, “That the struggle will continue. We’ll have to consider all the legal options like moving an appeal to court, etc.” He admits that where understanding and acceptance of homsexuality in India goes, “It is long and hard road ahead. We will need more public understanding on this as well.”
Ghose concurs saying, “The fight will continue for the movement but I feel in the current parliament where religious groups and orthodox sentiments are respected more, we can forget about rights for the LGBT community. Until there’s political pressure nothing will change. I’ve always felt that unless parents and students come out in support of the movement, the change won’t take place.”
For Kavi, the verdict undoes some of the good work that has been done by India in the past. “NACO had given an affidavit in support of the Naz foundation’s petition. As far as the HIV/AIDS groups are concerned, India had managed to do some good work by bringing marginalised groups into the fold. From sex workers to MSM( men who have sex with men), transgenders, etc. The message now is go in a closet and die. I won’t accept it and will challenge it,” he says.
Updated Date: Dec 11, 2013 15:38:51 IST