Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rainbow tryst with destiny

Happenings, Dec '13 (update 1)
Pawan Dhall reports on the developments around the much anticipated Supreme Court verdict on Section 377, Indian Penal Code

New Delhi, December 10, 2013: Everyone hoped today, the International Human Rights Day, would be judgement day! But the wait got longer by another day for the much awaited Supreme Court verdict on the validity of the Delhi High Court ruling on Section 377, Indian Penal Code (IPC). On July 2, 2009, in a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the constitutional veracity of Section 377, the Delhi High Court had read down Section 377 to decriminalize same-sex sexual relations among consenting adults in private. Subsequently, this ruling was challenged in the Supreme Court, which finished hearing on the matter in March 2012.

Anand Grover at his Lawyers Collective office in New Delhi.
Photo credit: Pawan Dhall
The Supreme Court verdict, if there is one, can now be expected on the morning of December 11, 2013. As things stood till earlier today, there were four possibilities about the verdict. Anand Grover of Lawyers Collective – HIV/AIDS Unit, which argued the PIL against Section 377 on behalf of NGO Naz Foundation (India) Trust, explained: “First, the Supreme Court could uphold the landmark Delhi High Court ruling. Second, it could overrule and set it aside as not valid. Beyond these, there are two other possibilities. The matter could be referred to the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of the senior most judges. Finally, the Supreme Court could choose not to deliver a judgement tomorrow, in which case the matter would be heard in due course by another bench of judges.”

While a negative verdict would be the last thing on many hopeful minds, a referral or a no-judgement would not be exactly bad news for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other queer groups engaged in a 12-year long campaign against Section 377. As Anand Grover elaborated, it would mean that the Delhi High Court ruling would hold good for the moment as the Supreme Court never stayed the ruling, even when it was hearing arguments against it. But technicalities aside, if the excitement and eagerness of queer support forums and their well wishers across India today were anything to go by, a positive verdict would be the best closure to a battle fought hard and well. Even if the legal battle won would mean the start of another long road ahead towards equality and larger social acceptance.

Pawan Dhall aspires to be a rainbow journalist and believes in taking a stand, even if it’s on the fence – the view is better from there!

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