Supreme Court Reserves Its Judgment

*Editors’ Note – As reported by Vikram Doctor*
[lgbt-india] Supreme Court reserves its judgment

Finally this Tuesday morning, around 12.30, the Supreme Court hearings in the 377 case came to an end.

After the arguments from our side wound up last week the procedure is that the opposing parties, who are the petitioners in this case (since it is an appeal against the Delhi High Court judgment, we are the defendants and they are the petitioners) are given a brief chance to counter the arguments made from our end, and that’s it for the hearings. Both sides will now have around two weeks to submit their written submissions, basically all the material they want the judges to consider (and its going to be tones!) and then its up to the judges and our prayers. They could take months to write a verdict, so we shouldn’t expect anything soon.

Arvind has sent minutes for today’s proceedings and they amply capture the mix of entertainment, nuttiness and nastiness that was on display today. They also capture something that has been evident to us, though perhaps this point has not been widely made to the public, which is what a deeply dubious bunch our opponents are. Baba Ramdev got the most publicity, but they are all at some level seeking publicity and airing their thoroughly confused or bigoted views. Many of them are personally highly questionable groups, with links to extremism or violence and those which are not, like the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, and some of the religious groups, should really not be in the court at all.

Partly there’s the question why their religious views should be imposed on those who don’t share them. But partly too there is the fact that many of these minority groups have faced discrimination and harassment of much the same kind that we have, and would not hesitate to defend themselves in much the same way as we did. I was told that this point was made, sadly not in court but outside, in a polite exchange between one of our lawyers and the lawyer for the AIMPLB. One of the conventions of courtrooms is that differences are kept within the courtroom and outside counsel can socialize even if they have been on opposing sides, but this time one of our lawyers was not willing to play along with this, and I can only applaud her. During a break when she encountered the AIMPLB’s lawyer and he was doing the its-only-a-case routine, she looked at him and said that she hoped he realized that everyone one of the arguments he had made against us could be made in
similar spirit against his clients. He had no reply.

And then there is JACK, our most devoted opponents. JACK’s persistence, from the Delhi High Court to now, with Mr.Mulloli coming to court every day and arguing for himself perhaps entitles them to some admiration for their commitment, in whatever twisted form. But Arvind’s minutes today shows them revealing their true colors, and I’m not referring to the saffron that they were apparently wearing. Their true colors are that of completely convinced conspiracy theorists who have even managed to persuade themselves that they are helping the people whose interests they are threatening. For those unfamiliar with the JACK ‘logic’ it goes something like this:

– AIDS does not exist, it is a conspiracy dreamed up by global pharmaceutical companies and others
– Homosexuals have been seduced into believing that AIDS exists, but in fact they are victims of the conspiracy and it is really the drugs sold by these companies that is killing them off
– Homosexuals are also being seduced by the global sex industry which wants to sell them their products and services
– This is why homosexuals want 377 removed because it comes in the way of the aims of the AIDS and sex industries
– Because they are seduced by these two industries (AIDS and sex) homosexuals face prejudice from society which associates them with AIDS and sex
– JACK therefore is really trying to save homosexuals from prejudice by saving them from the AIDS and sex industries
– This is why 377 has to stay in order to protect homosexuals.

One of the challenges of this case is just trying to find a sane way to respond to stuff like this, as well as answer the more pertinent questions posed by the judges. This work has been done by our legal team which has put in incredible amounts of energy, essentially putting their careers on hold for this unpaid work, devoting huge amounts of time to assembling material and briefing some of the most senior and reputed counsel in this country who all agreed to appear pro bono. I’ve seen the pressures these men and women have been working under and it has been insane. Whatever the verdict we all owe them, our legal team and the counsel, a huge debt and can only thank them now that its almost over. Thanks are also due to all the people who have helped provide this material, including the many people who gave their expertise in depth and at short notice.

And finally thanks are due to the petitioners from our side who filed the petitions that helped kick off this case, and those who later came on board to support the earlier ones. Foremost is obviously Anjali Gopalan of Naz India and she was in court most days, listening anxiously from the back (“I don’t have any nails left to bite!” she told me after one particularly bad day). Anand Grover of Lawyer’s Collective was her counsel, but he was much more – giving us the encouragement in the early days that we should do this, helping finance the conferences where the community came together to agree to do this, bucking us up at that bad phase when the Delhi High Court first threw out the petition and pushing us to appeal this to the Supreme Court, which agreed then that the Delhi High Court had to hear it, to the result that we know. Anand was in Court this time too, arguing with passion and determination.

Voices Against 377 helped build the human rights argument in the Delhi High Court, but also helped prove that this was not just the concern of a few. The coalition of individuals and groups that came together for Voices was really large and diverse, gay and straight, including groups dealing with child protection issues and women’s rights issues – one of the most effective moments in the Supreme Court was when the list of these groups was read out, proving that our support was really broad based. There were the senior mental health professionals and the academics who came together to create petitions that were presented in Court and there was Shyam Benegal who intervened as a private Indian citizen who was disgusted that this law existed. Ratna Kapur, the Delhi activist and lawyer also joined in an individual capacity, and finally (though only in my listing – in Court their case was the first to be heard, and the media also made the most of them) were
the 19 parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender kids who came together to support their children and to prove to the court that the law did not protect families, as our opponents argued, but in fact destroyed them by making a family member a criminal.

As it happens Tehelka has just run a feature on the parents and perhaps no better and final response can be made to the craziness and near-criminal malice of our opponents to compare with them and here’s the link.

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