The case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India

August 17, 2023

The case of Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India is a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India that decriminalized consensual adult same-sex relationships. The case is significant because it struck down a colonial-era law, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized “unnatural offenses” and was often used to target and discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals.

Here’s an overview of the case and its implications:

Background: Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code was a British colonial-era law that criminalized “carnal intercourse against the order of nature.” It was used to criminalize consensual homosexual acts between adults, effectively making same-sex relationships illegal and subject to punishment.

Key Issue: The main issue in the case was whether Section 377 violated the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, including the rights to equality, privacy, and non-discrimination.

Supreme Court Decision: On September 6, 2018, the Supreme Court of India delivered its historic judgment in the Navtej Singh Johar case. The court held that consensual adult same-sex relationships between individuals of the same sex were not criminal offenses under Section 377. The court ruled that Section 377 was unconstitutional to the extent that it criminalized consensual sexual acts between adults.

The court emphasized that LGBTQ+ individuals, like all citizens, were entitled to equal protection of the law and the right to live with dignity. The judgment highlighted the importance of recognizing diversity and respecting the rights of marginalized communities.

Impact: The Navtej Singh Johar case marked a significant milestone in the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights in India. The decriminalization of consensual same-sex relationships was a major step toward recognizing the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ individuals. The judgment had far-reaching implications, including:

  1. Decriminalization: The ruling effectively decriminalized same-sex relationships between consenting adults, affirming their right to privacy and personal autonomy.
  2. Social Change: The judgment contributed to a positive shift in societal attitudes toward LGBTQ+ individuals and relationships.
  3. Legal Precedent: The judgment set a legal precedent for LGBTQ+ rights in India and affirmed the constitutional principles of equality and non-discrimination.
  4. Human Rights: The decision was celebrated internationally as a victory for human rights and LGBTQ+ rights.

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