Pride, love, freedom and equality! With the Supreme Court scrapping the archaic, colonial law that criminalised homosexuality and all other sexual acts that did not lead to procreation, a new age dawned in India Thursday. In a unanimous verdict, a five-judge bench declared the 2013 Supreme Court judgment recriminalising homosexuality as “arbitrary, fallacious and retrograde”, reports The Times of India.
In four concurrent opinions, the judges said they ‘abhorred the imposition of the majoritarian view’ on the LGBTQ community. They upheld the community’s fundamental rights to equality and freedom of expression, and the rights to choice and dignity in terms of their sexual preferences, reports The Telegraph.
The justices of the Supreme Court were hailed for their progressive judgments. Their remarks on the draconian law, and the observations made, will remain etched in the annals of judicial history.
CJI Dipak Misra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar quoted German writer Goethe and wrote, “I am what I am. So take me as I am.” Justice D. Y. Chandrachud termed the law a legacy of the British Raj that had stayed on due to the lethargic tendencies of India’s lawmakers. The Hindu quoted him as saying, “It is difficult to right a wrong by history. But we can set the course for the future.” Justice Indu Malhotra said, “History owes an apology to members of the community and their families for the delay in ensuring their rights.”
The Hindustan Times hailed the judgment with the headline, ‘Rainbow Nation’, and this picture:
The leading newspapers of the country had their front pages filled with these words and the rainbow LGBTQ pride flag. The Indian Express headline read, “Love at first right”, while The Times of India celebrated the judgment in bold letters as “Independence Day II”. Hindi dailies Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran and Amar Ujala, too, led with coverage of the historic moment.
Twitter, meanwhile, was dizzy with joy.
Three cheers to the judges of the Supreme Court. They have undone a disgraceful judgment by one of their own and shamed UPA and NDA Governments who put bigotry above humanity. https://t.co/YYcqnFQNqP
— Ramachandra Guha (@Ram_Guha) September 6, 2018
— Satish Acharya (@satishacharya) September 6, 2018
J. Chandrachud: Shadows of a receding past controls the quest of LGBTQ for fulfillment. Quotes Leonard Cohen
— Krishnadas Rajagopal (@kdrajagopal) September 6, 2018
So pleased to learn that the SupremeCourt has ruled against criminalising sexual acts in private. This decision vindicates my stand on Section 377& on exactly the same grounds of privacy, dignity &constitutional freedoms. It shames those BJP MPs who vociferously opposed me in LS.
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) September 6, 2018
Welcome SC decision scrapping Section 377. It was long long overdue. Congratulations to the entire LGBT community – its a free India at last. https://t.co/XGzsVIlnfn
— Swati Maliwal (@SwatiJaiHind) September 6, 2018
Historical judgment!!!! So proud today! Decriminalising homosexuality and abolishing #Section377 is a huge thumbs up for humanity and equal rights! The country gets its oxygen back! 👍👍👍💪💪💪🙏🙏🙏 pic.twitter.com/ZOXwKmKDp5
— Karan Johar (@karanjohar) September 6, 2018
Several brands weighed in with messages celebrating the judgment.
— Swiggy (@swiggy_in) September 6, 2018
— Flipkart (@Flipkart) September 6, 2018
— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E) September 6, 2018
The decision, of course, faced its fair share of criticism as well. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said the judgment could be overturned by a seven-judge bench, reports The Huffington Post. He termed homosexuality “a genetic disorder”. Earlier this year, he had said homosexuality threatened India’s national security.
The Supreme Court refused to strike down that part of Section 377 IPC which made sex with animals a crime. Does this interfere with fundamental rights too?
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) September 6, 2018
And some ill-informed and archaic beliefs were on display as well.
You see only young generation supporting Scrapping of 377. No mature senior person are there to support them. They (supporters) will get to know what wrong they did only when they get mature by experience & age. These people are terminally ill patient need psychiatric treatment.
— Mera Desh Bharat (@ThakurTalk) July 11, 2018
I strongly criticise SC Judgment on IPC 377. Will these judges allow their grand children to become gay or lesbian at tender age to be prosecuted as offender in adulthood. Ridiculous & foolishness. Shd revise it
— RK Yadav Former R&AW Officer (@RKYadavExRAW) September 6, 2018
In other important news, India-US signed a major defence deal, Sujan Dutta reported for ThePrint. The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) will enable both countries to upgrade their bilateral military partnership and give India access to advanced defence systems, among other things. The ‘2+2’ dialogue also led to an agreement that the two countries engage in a tri-services military drill in 2019.
Point of view
Finally, the draconian Section 377 is gone! All the major newspaper editorials welcome the verdict. The Hindu writes in its editorial, “The stirring message from the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment decriminalising gay sex is that social morality cannot trump constitutional morality.”
The Indian Express writes in its editorial, “SC’s Section 377 verdict brings a belated but soaring moment. It’s a victory for individual and minority rights, underlines primacy of Constitution as a transformative document.”
The Supreme Court order decriminalising homosexuality overturned a verdict delivered by a two-judge bench in Suresh Koushal vs Naz Foundation. Legal scholars Alok Prasanna Kumar and Arghya Sengupta write in a column in The Times of India, “It is an important judgment not just for the expansion for civil liberties and gay rights in India, but also for the court to recognise that, as an institution, it failed terribly in delivering the kind of judgment that it did in Suresh Koushal.”
The RBI rule requiring companies to store users’ payment data in India has put a brake on Apple’s UPI-based payments platform in India, reports The Economic Times. Not only Apple’s, the rule is also likely to affect the plans of other multinationals, like Mastercard, Visa, Amazon, WhastApp and PayPal.
So how is life for Sachin Bansal post Flipkart? Of course, the family is happy as he is easily available and spending more quality time with the family, writes The Economic Times. Bansal, one of the founders of the e-commerce player Flipkart, moved out of the company after it was bought over by American retail giant Walmart.
Supreme Court made history Thursday by abolishing Section 377. And what did TV news channels do? They ‘debated’ it, though, really, what’s there to debate when it comes to fundamental rights?
TimesNow and Republic TV pitted LGBTQ rights activists against bigots for the second night in a row, with categories like “celebrates verdict” versus “against gay rights”. Predictably, these conversations offered nothing new, despite the #NewIndiaRises tag.
Nonetheless, the verdict deserves the widespread coverage it got, with NDTV doing a fitting interview with Menaka Guruswamy, the lawyer for the petitioners.
She said, “The courts have shown that it’s not majoritarian morality, it is not societal morality, it is constitutional morality which will define India as a democracy”.
Its Hindi counterpart broadcast a conversation between Ravish Kumar and gay rights activist Gautam Bhan, who said, “For the first time in a long time, the courts looked at us humanely.”
On CNN News 18, Bhupendra Chaubey’s Viewpoint signed off on a compelling note, saying we all ought to have the choice to love.
What also made headlines was the Telangana cabinet’s decision to dissolve the state assembly, and push for an earlier election. The state was to go to the polls alongside the Lok Sabha election in April-May next year.
On India Today, Ramachandra Rao of the Telangana BJP said, “Afraid of Modi’s impact during simultaneous elections, KCR is going for the elections in advance”.
News it’s just kinda cool to know
Leading British astronomer Bell Burnell has donated the £2.3 million prize money she received with a recent award for a fund to encourage women, ethnic minorities, and refugee students to study physics. Burnell was recently conferred the Breakthrough award for her discovery of radio pulsars, a kind of neutron star. The BBC reported her saying, “I don’t want or need the money myself and it seemed to me that this was perhaps the best use I could put to it.”
(With inputs from Simrin Sirur)