On 11/12/15 which marks the second anniversary of the Suresh Kumar Koushal judgment, which effectively recriminalizes LGBT persons, the union government needs to be reminded of its constitutional responsibility to decriminalize the lives of millions of LGBT citizens. The lives of LGBT citizens are not a political football to be tossed from the judiciary to parliament and from parliament to the judiciary. It is time the government owned its responsibility!
In this connection, a new petition argues that constitutional morality enjoins that the government takes action to repeal Section 377. The petition, which is addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of Law and Justice Sadananda Gowda, starts with: “We would like to bring to your attention a matter of the utmost urgency concerning the right to live with dignity of millions of citizens of India, namely those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT).”
It then goes on to give a brief description of what Section 377 is, and why the Delhi High Court read down the said Section, before the Supreme Court re-instated it. The petition notes that the Supreme Court, even when reversing the Delhi High Court judgement, had stated that most of the cases referred to the courts were non-consensual and coercive, and it had further said that the “Court has merely pronounced on the correctness of the view taken by the Delhi High Court on the constitutionality of Section 377 IPC and found that the said section does not suffer from any constitutional infirmity.” The Supreme Court had also left it to the Parliament to remove Section 377, if it deemed it fit.
“It is the responsibility of parliament to ensure that the rights of all sections of the Indian people including LGBT Indians are protected,” the petition urges, and cites NALSA judgement as well as the Transgender Rights Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha to show the determination of the Supreme Court and the Parliament to “to protect the rights of all citizens including transgender persons”. Section 377 on that other hand, has specifically been used to target the transgender community, the petition says.
“When it comes to a question of the right to dignity of a significant section of the Indian population, surely it is incumbent upon the Union of India to discharge their constitutional responsibility and introduce a bill to repeal Section 377,” the petition reads. Imploring PM Modi to act, the petition says: “It is your responsibility as the Prime Minister to lessen popular prejudice, allow for free expression of ideas and repeal criminal laws which hamper and impede the right to free expression of millions of LGBT Indians.”
The petition ends with the following demands:
- Introduce a bill in parliament to repeal Section 377
- Amend Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code so that protection from rape is extended to all persons regardless of gender or sexuality in line with the Justice Verma Committee recommendations.
You can sign the petition here.