[EXCLUSIVE] More than two months since the historic Section 377 judgment, Centre still sitting on Supreme Court diktat to publicise it via sensitisation programmes

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n response to an RTI application filed by Delhi-based advocate Paras Nath Singh (see Images 1 & 2) on September 22, 2018, with the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), the Ministry of Home Affairs, it has now come to light that the Union Government has not yet implemented the directions issued by the Supreme Court of India that required the Central Government to give wide-scale publicity to the Supreme Court judgment in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India.

The apex court had directed the Union Government to widely publicise the Section 377 verdict through public media — which includes television, radio, print and online media — at regular intervals, and initiate programmes to reduce and finally eliminate the stigma associated with LGBTQI persons. Court had also required that all government officials, including and in particular law enforcement officials, and other officers of the Union of India and the States, be given periodic sensitisation and awareness training on the discrimination faced by LGBTQI peoples and how it must be combatted in the light of the observations contained in this judgment.

Image 1: Page 1 of RTI application filed by Paras Nath Singh September 22, 2018
Image 2: Page 2 of RTI application filed by Paras Nath Singh September 22, 2018

A five-judge Constitution bench — comprising then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and Justices Rohinton F Nariman, A M Khanwilker, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra — in a landmark judgment delivered on September 6, 2018 had decriminalised sex amongst consenting adults in private, thereby reading down Section 377, IPC insofar as it criminalised “sex against the order of nature”, disproportionately impacting members of the LGBTQI community. The above-mentioned directions in the 377 judgment were penned down by Justice Rohinton F Nariman, who in his separate but concurring judgment, had called upon the Central Government to ensure implementation of the landmark verdict by the apex court in letter and spirit.

The judgment held that Section 377 of the IPC, to the extent it criminalised sexual acts between consenting adults in private, was in violation of Articles 14 and 15 (equality and discrimination); Article 19 (Fundamental Freedoms) and Article 21 (privacy and dignity).


Image 3: Reply from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.


CPIO’s reply (Image 3) further reveals that Union Home Ministry received the copy of the said judgment on September 18, 2018. However, the Ministry has not taken any call even after two months of the receiving of the judgment and the matter is still being examined by the Central Government. MHA has also informed that the Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court of India on September 11, 2018 circulated the said judgment to the Chief Secretaries of all the States for necessary compliance.

Centre had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court leaving it on the wisdom of the court to decide the validity of Section 377 of the IPC —thus the Centre neither contested the case, nor favoured it.

One of the queries in the RTI application by Singh was the name and designation of the competent authority who approved the affidavit and connected file noting(s) generated in processing the same. The Union Home Ministry, however, chose not to reply on this point.

[Disclaimer: Paras Nath Singh assists Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, the co-founder of The Leaflet.]

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