Supreme Court Lawyers Arundhati Katju and Menaka Guruswamy, who fought the Section 377 case last year, have been named among the 100 Most Influential Persons in the World by Time Magazine.
“Armed with a well-planned strategy that went beyond their well-researched legal arguments, Arundhati and Menaka became beacons of hope for the Indian LGBTQ+ community. Their perseverance and commitment led an entire community to a historic win by humanizing their struggles and giving them the freedom to love,” actor Priyanka Chopra wrote about them in the Magazine.
“Arundhati and Menaka have helped take a giant step for LGBTQ+ rights in the world’s largest democracy. In their committed fight for justice, they have shown us that we as a society must continue to make progress, even after laws are changed, and that we must make an effort to understand, accept and love,” Priyanka Chopra further wrote in the profile of the advocates.
Menaka Guruswamy is a senior lawyer at the Supreme Court and has worked as a human rights consultant to the United Nations. Arundhati Katju is an advocate at the Supreme Court and has also worked with India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to draft the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
During the course of hearing of the case, Menaka had made an impassioned plea before the judges and said, “How strongly must we love knowing we are unconvicted felons under Section 377? My Lords, this is love that must be constitutionally recognized, and not just sexual acts.”
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised “unnatural sex”, was first challenged by the the Naz Foundation in 2001 in Delhi High Court. Over the years, a number of civil society groups came together in support of repeal of Section 377 under the banner of Voices Against 377. The case was fought by Lawyers Collective and other lawyers, and in 2009, the Delhi High Court read down Section 377 and decriminalised consesual sex between adults. The verdict was challenged in the Supreme Court, and a two judge bench reinstated Section 377.
A curative petition was then filed in the Supreme Court, which was pending in the court, when another petition was filed by a group of prominent LGBTQ people. The petition was known as Navtej Singh Johar and others. Many other petitioners too joined in the Johar petition and a battery of lawyers made their submissions to the court.
Finally, the Supreme Court gave a historic verdict on September 6, 2018, and read down Section 377 again.