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Navtej Singh Johar and others v. Union of India (2018) – Decriminalization of Homosexual Acts

This topic of “Navtej Singh Johar and others v. Union of India (2018) – Decriminalization of Homosexual Acts” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Introduction:

  • Landmark judgment by Supreme Court of India
  • Decriminalized consensual homosexual acts between adults
  • Struck down Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) as unconstitutional

Background:

  • Section 377, IPC: criminalized “unnatural offenses” (1861)
  • Broad interpretation: included consensual homosexual acts
  • Prior rulings: Delhi High Court (2009, decriminalized); Supreme Court (2013, reinstated)
  • Navtej Singh Johar and others: petitioners, challenging Section 377

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Arguments:

  • Petitioners: Section 377 violated fundamental rights
    • Article 14: right to equality before the law
    • Article 15: prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex
    • Article 19: right to freedom of expression
    • Article 21: right to privacy and personal autonomy
  • Respondents (Union of India): limited arguments, left the matter to the court’s wisdom

Issues before the court:

  • Constitutionality of Section 377, IPC
  • Right to privacy and personal autonomy
  • Right to equality and non-discrimination
  • Right to freedom of expression

Judgment:

  • Five-judge bench, unanimous decision
  • Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar: Section 377 irrational, arbitrary, violated fundamental rights
  • Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman: IPC’s failure to differentiate between consensual, non-consensual acts problematic
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud: Section 377 perpetuated stereotypes, hindered self-expression
  • Justice Indu Malhotra: LGBTQ+ community entitled to equal citizenship, protection from discrimination

Significance:

  • Landmark victory for LGBTQ+ rights in India
  • Decriminalization of consensual homosexual acts
  • Upheld constitutional rights to privacy, equality, and freedom of expression (Articles 14, 15, 19, 21)
  • Promoted social acceptance and inclusivity
  • Encouraged further legal reforms related to LGBTQ+ rights

This article is part of the series “Landmark Judgements that Shaped India” under the Indian Polity Notes & Prelims Sureshots. We aim to make the articles comprehensive while leaving out unnecessary information from the UPSC perspective. If you think this article is useful, please provide your feedback in the comments section below.

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