One of the most fierce and vociferous opposition to LGBTQ+ rights has come from religious lobbies — be it the evangelical Christians in the USA running gay conversion therapy camps, or Baba Ramdev claiming that he can “cure” homosexuality through yoga, or the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. But the premise of human rights and liberty cannot be somebody else’s right to religion.
In a judgment running into 493 pages, with four concurrent opinions from Chief Justice Dipak Mishra (who also wrote on behalf of Justice AM Khanwilkar) as well as Justices Rohinton Nariman, DY Chandrachud, and Indu Malhotra, the Supreme Court unequivocally upheld the constitutional rights of equality, non-discrimination, freedom of expression, privacy, autonomy, dignity, and health of LGBT persons guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 19, and 21 of the Constitution. The arc of justice and freedom has finally come home, into the lives of LGBT persons, into the law, and hopefully will soon penetrate to their families, work spaces, public places, and in private domains.
As Section 377 is read down today, we must not forget that ABVA filed the first writ petition to challenge the constitutional validity of Section 377 before Delhi High Court. The petition was dismissed in 1999 for non-prosecution just before Naz Foundation filed its petition in 2001.. On July 2, 2009 the Delhi High Court pronounced its historic judgment by declaring Section 377 unconstitutional, but it was overturned on December 11, 2013 by the Supreme Court on appeals filed by religious and cultural organisations. Today, the Supreme Court course-corrected again.
It has been important for Governments, both the Congress-led UPA and the BJP to disguise their attacks on Adivasis, and now, in the case of the BJP, their attack on Dalits— as an attack on “Maoists” or “Naxals.” This is because, unlike in the case of Muslims who have been almost been erased from electoral arithmetic, all political parties do have an eye on those Adivasi and Dalit constituencies as potential vote banks. By arresting activists and calling them “Maoists’, the Government manages to undermine and insult Dalit aspiration by giving it another name.
A constitutional republic can only survive if there is a semblance of the rule of law. But yesterday the rule of law broke down. Raids and arrests occurred. Those who were arrested didn't have the charges read out to them. Arrest memos were presented in a language the courts couldn't follow and courts granted remands based on those memos.
We are going through times when lawyers who are on the front lines taking up unpopular causes are being maligned, attacked, arrested and held in prolonged detention, and/or killed. If this does not stop, one day there will be no one to defend the rule of law, one day there will be no rule of law to defend.
As a lawyer I believe in the Rule of Law and not in media trials. So I prefer to continue going about my work and duties as a trade unionist, a lawyer and a teacher; serving people as best I can and as I have been doing for the past three decades. Let my love for my country and its citizens speak, not through words, but through my work.
Social movements in India need to broaden their understanding of the prison politics and how the State is actively criminalising the poor, and locking up a large number of marginalised communities in prisons. The State and dominant groups use law as an instrument to perpetuate discrimination and violence against these marginalised groups, which is a replication and extension of the colonial practice of subjugation.
Article 35A, being the right under the Constitution to define a permanent resident, and to consequently confer upon such citizens rights related to immovable property, is intrinsically connected to both land and law in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Tampering with it, therefore, might itself give rise to claims of self-determination propelled by forces that will inevitably manifest under any forced ‘integration’ scenario.
While the Supreme Court will to decrimnalise consensual same-sex relationships is pretty clear to many, there are important issues to address, such as formulating anti-discrimination laws for private sector, making rape laws gender neutral to incorporate homosexual consensual sex acts, as well as move to recognize same-sex marriage.
The death penalty is another method of policing vulnerable communities and is symptomatic of what the current criminal justice system already is. All aspects of the criminal justice system are politically tinted, such as, who is to be arrested and investigated, who is likely to be unrepresented or poorly represented at trial, who the judge thinks is more likely to have committed the crime and deserves punishment, and whether the mercy petition is considered or not.
According to their warrants of appointments signed off by the President of India on August 3, 2018, Justice K M Joseph has been put below the other two justices in the seniority order despite the fact that Justice Joseph’s name was initially recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium much before the name of Justices Banerjee and Saran. The Collegium erred knowing fully that reiteration of his name along with the names of other Chief Justices could compromise his seniority further.