CASE ANALYSIS-NAVTEJ SINGH JOHAR V. UNION OF INDIA

Introduction

India has acquired a place among the 28 countries of Asia to legalize homosexuality and to recognize LGBT rights. The judgment passed in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India has changed the life of many in the country. Prior to this judgment, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community didn’t have such rights as Homosexuality was a punishable offence under sec-377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Facts of the case

The central issue of the case was the constitutional validity of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Section 377) insofar as it applied to the consensual sexual conduct of adults of the same sex in private. Section 377 was titled ‘Unnatural Offences’ and stated that “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to a fine.”

The Petitioner in the present case, Navtej Singh Johar, a dancer who identified as part of the LGBT community, filed a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court in 2016 seeking recognition of the right to sexuality, right to sexual autonomy and right to choice of a sexual partner to be part of the right to life guaranteed by Art. 21 of the Constitution of India (Constitution). Furthermore, he sought a declaration that Section 377 was unconstitutional. The Petitioner also argued that Section 377 was violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution (Right to Equality Before the Law) because it was vague in the sense that it did not define “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. [p.25, para 26] There was no intelligible differentia or reasonable classification between natural and unnatural consensual sex. Among other things, the Petitioner further argued that (i) Section 377 was violative of Art. 15 of the Constitution (Protection from Discrimination) since it discriminated on the basis of the sex of a person’s sexual partner, (ii) Section 377 had a “chilling effect” on Article 19 (Freedom of Expression) since it denied the right to express one’s sexual identity through speech and choice of romantic/sexual partner, and (iii) Section 377 violated the right to privacy as it subjected LGBT people to the fear that they would be humiliated or shunned because of “a certain choice or manner of living.” [p. 22, para. 21]

The Respondent in the case was the Union of India. Along with the Petitioner and Respondent, certain non-governmental organizations, religious bodies and other representative bodies also filed applications to intervene in the case.

The Union of India submitted that it left the question of the constitutional validity of Section 377 (as it applied to consenting adults of the same sex) to the “wisdom of the Court”. [p. 270, para. 8] Some interveners argued against the Petitioner, submitting that the right to privacy was not unbridled, that such acts were derogatory to the “constitutional concept of dignity” [p. 32, para. 39], that such acts would increase the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in society, and that declaring Section 377 unconstitutional would be detrimental to the institution of marriage and that it may violate Art. 25 of the Constitution (Freedom of Conscience and Propagation of Religion).

Conclusion

So now homosexuality has been decriminalized but the reaction of society and different organisations is still a challenge for the LGBT community. Though there are organisations such as All India Muslim Personal Law Board and the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind who expressed their disappointment towards the verdict given by the Apex Court on section-377. There also exist organisations and parties who are satisfied with the given verdict, namely, Amnesty International, RSS, CPI(M) and UN. According to the surveys conducted by various LGBT activists in different parts of the country, life is much better and simple for the LGBT group. Every society needs time to accept any change. The time is not so far when the society will accept the LGBT community and their rights. 

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