NAVTEJ SINGH JOHAR v. UNION OF INDIA

BY: Pragya Sanchety & Akriti Sharma

Introduction

The Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) has always been a voguish matter of discussion drafted in the year 1838 was based on “the Buggery Act 1533”(Buggery means unnatural sex) this act was enacted by Lord Macaulay in the year 1860[1]. This act was replaced by the “Offence against the person act 1861”,which gives the wider definition of the unnatural sexual act. This act is viewed as the motivation for the section 377 IPC[2]. It is fascinating that the British government has made same-sex marriage lawful, but the Indian government followed until 2018. This section says that “whoever is involved in carnal intercourse against the order of nature criminal liability will be imposed on that person under IPC[3]. This section of Indian Constitution violates the article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, which talks about right to equality, no discrimination on basis of religion, race case sex and place of birth here sex also includes sexual orientation, freedom of speech and express themselves by using their preferred pronouns, dress style etc. and Right to life and personal liberty.

Procedural Background

In 2009, the Delhi High Court, in the case of Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT of Delhi[4]The court held that categorizing and attacking homosexuals violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution i.e. equality before or equal protection of the law. This section does infringe human dignity which is the Cruz of the Indian Constitution. 

In 2013, Suresh Koushal v. Naz Foundation[5] reversed the Delhi High Court decision and again criminalized this section. It likewise held that section 377 condemn certain demonstration and no specific class of individual.

In 2014 in the case NALSA v. Union of India[6], transgender people were pronounced as third-gender and this case also promised that the fundamental rights will be similarly relevant to transgender individuals and gave them the privilege of self-identification.

In 2016, Naz Foundation filed a curative petition and was then referred to a five-member constitutional bench. 

In 2017, Puttaswamy and Anr. v. Union of India Right[7] to privacy was pronounced as a fundamental right guaranteed by the part3 of the Constitution of India the judgement is probably going to affect the request pending under the steady case of the supreme court on the decriminalization of non- heterosexuality in India.

In 2018, Shakti Vahini v. Union of India[8] 2018, that the right to choose the life partner is pronounced as the fundamental right neither the state nor the legal system can command a choice of a partner or restrict the free capability of every person to judge on this matter.  Section 377 was infringing this right to choose a life partner, so, this case also forms the basis for the decriminalization of this section.

Facts

In 2018, a petition was filed by a Bharatnatyam dancer Navtej Singh Johar (who himself belongs to LGBTQ community) challenging the validity and asking that Right to sexual autonomy,Right to choose the sexual partner, Right to choose sexuality should be included in Article 21 i.e. Right to life they also demanded that the section 377 is unconstitutional and should be decriminalized[9]. Approximately 8 per cent of India’s population consists of LGBTQ community[10] and they need to be respected and acknowledged despite their minority and they need legal safeguarding. Persons belonging to this community cannot exercise the right of sexual identity and orientation without constraint. Their right to reputation is also infringed by section 377 of IPC. This section is vague regarding the consensual and non – consensual sexual act. Petitioner contended that orientation is neither a physical nor a mental disorder[11]. Initially, a petition was presented before the three-judge bench of the apex Court, but after the duly consideration it was decided that the case should be presented before the larger bench. Therefore a five-judge bench made up of “Justice Dipak Mishra, Justice Indu Malhotra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman” heard the case[12].

Issues

  1. Whether the consensual acts, between the competent homosexual adults, comes within the ambit of unnatural sex?
  2. Whether homosexual sex in private space harms the public decency and morality?
  3. Whether the “right to live with dignity” has been infringed by section 377?
  4. Whether Section 377 condemn gender expression LGBTQ community?

Analysis

Section 377 chronologically erroneous pioneer law abrogated by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court decriminalizing “same-sex relations between consenting people (who are above 18)”. This section validates the disgrace associated with sexual orientation and expression something very crucial[13]. They found that Section 377 oppresses people based on their sexual direction as well as sex personality, disregarding Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution[14]. Further, they decided that Section 377 abuses the rights to life, pride and independence of individual decision under Article 21. This section, cease to work properly in making a division between consensual and non – consensual sexual acts of adults. It also subjects LBTQ community to avoidance by everyone in the society and snatches their rights to dignity, guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution of India and assessment of this section on Article 19 (1) (a)[15] uncovers that, it adds up to an absurd limitation or public decency and ethical equality cannot be enhanced, past a consistent or a normal restriction and cannot be acknowledged as a sensible justification for curbing fundamental rights and choice of LGBTQ community. Sexual intercourse between adults be it homo or hetero not in public space does not harm public decency and ethical equality. People belonging to this community are granted protection of equal laws and should be subjected in the public eye as people with no disgrace or dishonour being attached to them.

If this happens or if the behaviour towards LGBTQ people group is allowed to persevere, at that point Indian courts, which are under the responsibility to ensure the fundamental rights of its subjects, would be coming up short in the release of their obligation. Inability to do so would diminish the people confidence in the judiciary of the nation.  The court as the final caretaker of the Constitution needs to likewise keep in view the essential of the minorities. The job of the court accepts further significance when the group of people whose rights are in question, are the individuals who have been the victim of modification, degradation, biasness, severance and brutality by the state and the general public as well as their own family[16]. Advancement of law cannot further battle further acknowledgement and accomplishment of the privileges of such individuals of the general public. In this, manner taking into account constitutional ethical equality too[17].

On the contention of the LBTQ people group measurably minor, fundamental rights put an application to people independent of their count in the population. These rights are ensured to every single person and cannot be rejected to a group of people because of its minority in the population, anyway small LGBTQ community should have equivalent legal protection if not more. The court, on this point accurately stated, “the idea of number in this context is meaningless like zero on the left side of any number”. They not only perceived as lawbreakers or offender without a legitimized reason yet, besides they were oppressed and a discriminated in fields of education, work and many more. The essential human right i.e. Article 14 right to equality was snatched to them because of their sexual identity and orientation[18]. Also, the Indian culture has gotten significantly more liberal in the current occasions, non – liberal may have a sentiment or ‘repugnance’ for contrary practices to their belief. Yet it cannot be viewed as an appropriate ground for taking away their fundamental rights from a specific part of the society[19].

Concerning the infringement of Article 15, the conflict stands valid also in light of the fact that sex is a word at which sexual orientation and sex are being categorized. Article 15 has continuously being accepted cliché of sex as just male and female. So, article 15 must cover in its scope the LGBTQ social order as well[20]. The Supreme Court effectively put together its judgment concerning the angles canvassed in the above-mentioned examination and decriminalized consensual sexual acts of persons above 18 years of age and name the acts as ‘natural’ to sum up the above analysis in a line the apex court held that “sexual orientation forms a part of the Right of expression under Article 19 and is an important part of the Right to privacy”[21].

Conclusion

The choice of the apex court decriminalizing consensual sex between the person who is above 18 independent of their gender or sexual orientation was right to the extent that court held brutishness sex with minors and consensual sexual action inside the scope of section 377. The judgement was appropriate to prevent any escape of law. Thus, the court overrules Suresh Kumar Koushal judgement having being endured by society and family and being named as ‘untouchable’ the time demanded that the Supreme Court embraced a dynamic and acknowledged the LGBTQ people group as a per cent of Indian society.

As per Justice  Dipak Sharma and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar Section 377 of IPC in its then structure brought this section in its current structure has brought about an undesirable guarantee impact whereby even “consensual sexual acts”, which are neither unsafe to youngsters nor ladies, by the LGBT people have been very badly focused on in this manner bringing about separation and inconsistent behaviour to the LGBT people group and is, along these lines, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution[22]. This section in its current structure abuses Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution[23]. Hence, “Section 377 IPC”, so far as it punishes any consensual sexual connection between two grown-ups, be it gay people (male and a male), hetero (male and a lady) or lesbo (lady and a lady), can’t be viewed as protected.

As per Justice R.F. Nariman J, the court has closed by expressing that people who are gay have a key option to live with pride which, in the bigger system of the preamble of India will guarantee the cardinal sacred estimation of brotherhood[24]. They were likewise of the view that Union of India should take all plan to guarantee that this decision of the court is given wide display through the “open media” which comprises of T.V., radio and online platforms regularly and minimize and eliminates the shame related to such people. Most importantly, all administrations authority, incorporating specifically police authority and different officials of Union of India and State, been given awareness about the same[25].

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud pronounced that LGBT people group are entitled to all constitutional rights as other people. The decision of whom to partner, the potential to discover gratification in sexual affections and the privileged not to be vulnerable to prejudicial conduct are natural for the Constitution[26]. They are granted the privilege of equal citizenship without any biasness.

As per JusticeIndu Malhotra J – to eliminate the vagueness of this section as it is at variance with part 3 of the Constitution struck down section 377 is dispensable. It breaks Article 14, 15, 19 and 21 of the Constitution[27]. However, it explains and made clear that such assent must be free assent which is deliberate and without any pressure and compulsion. This judgment would not lead to any reopening of concluded cases but could surely end all pending cases. This section would continue to judge ‘non – consensual sexual acts’, all acts of carnal intercourse against minor[28].

These conversations prompted homosexuality between consenting grown-ups, in private, being decriminalized. AlsoIn December 1973, the American Psychiatric Association took off homosexuality from its manual on mental issues[29]with the note that any type of sexual attraction is normal and World Health Organization(WHO) withdrawn homosexuality from its ailments in 1992[30].


[1]https://www.legislation.gov.uk, (Visited on July 5, 2020).

[2]Professor Douglas Sanders, “377 and the unilateral afterlife of British colonialism in Asia”, pp. 3 – 6.

[3]Alok Gupta, “Section 377 and the dignity of Indian homosexuals”, ECONOMICAND POLITICAL WEEKLY, Vol. 41, No. 46, p. 1.

[4]Naz Foundation v. Government of NCT of Delhi, (2009) DLT 27.

[5] Suresh Koushal v. Naz Foundation, (2014) 1 SCC 1.

[6] NALSA v. Union of India, AIR 2014 SC 1863.

[7]  Puttaswamy and Anr. v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012.

[8]Shakti Vahini v. Union of India,(2018) 7 SCC 192.

[9]  Gitanjali Mishra, “Decriminalising homosexuality in India”, REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH MATTERS, Vol. 17, No. 34, p. 23.

[10] Geeta Mohan, “India abstains from voting for LGBTQ rights at UN Human Rights Council”, July 12, 2019.

[11]Sandra C. Anderson, “Substance Use Disorders in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Clients: Assessment and Treatment”, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2009, pp. 193- 205, JSTOR.

[12] http://opiniojuris.org, (Visited on July 12, 2020).

[13]Animesh Sharma, “Section 377: No Jurisprudential Basis”, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, Vol. 43, No. 46, 2008, pp. 12-15, JSTOR.

[14] https://www.india.gov.in, (Visited on July 13, 2020).

[15]Ibid.

[16]  https://www.unicef.org, (Visited on July 13, 2020).

[17]Manil Suri, “India’s Riotous Triumph of Equality”, Sept. 7, 2018.

[18] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, (Visited on July 14, 2020).

[19] Kai Schultz, “Gay in India, Where Progress Has Come Only With Risk”, June 2, 2018.

[20] Nayantara Ravichandran, “Legal Recognition of Same-sex Relationships in India”, Vol. 5, pp. 95 – 96.

[21]Ibid.

[22] https://www.thehindu.com, (Visited on July 15, 2020).

[23]M.P. Jain, “Article 19 (1)(a): Freedom of the Press”, JOURNAL OF THE INDIAN LAW INSTITUTE, Vol. 15, No. 1,1973, pp. 154-156, JSTOR.

[24] Supreme Court Scraps Section 377, “Majoritarian Views Cannot Dictate Rights”, THE WIRE, September 6 2018.

[25] http://sci.gov.in, (Visited on July 16, 2020).

[26]Krishnadas Rajagopal, “Section 377: government should have taken a stand, says Justice Chandrachud”, September 7, 2018.

[27]Ushinor Majumdar, “History Owes An Apology: Justice Indu Malhotra On Section 377”, September 7, 2018.

[28] Apurva Vishwanath, “Justice Indu Malhotra’s reading of Section 377 verdict was a mic-drop moment”, September 7, 2018.

[29] https://www.nytimes.com, (Visited on July 16, 2020).

[30] https://www.who.int, (Visited on July 16, 2020).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s