Case BriefsForeign Courts

Kenya of High Court, Nairobi: A Full Bench of Roselyne Aburili, E.C. Mwita and John M. Mativo, JJ. dismissed a petition regarding the removal of the ban on same-sex relations.

The petitioner had challenged the constitutionality of Sections 162 and 165 of the Penal Code, 1930 which prohibited unnatural offences in the form of carnal intercourse against the order of nature and indecent practices between males, whether in public or in private. The petitioners contended that the two provisions violated the right to privacy and dignity of the Kenyans guaranteed under the Constitution of Kenya as it made the Lesbians, Gay, Bisexuals, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) community in Kenya perpetually exposed to risk of arrest, prosecution, denial of liberty, intimidation and mistreatment. The impugned penal provisions were stated to be violative of Article 27 (equality and freedom from discrimination), Article 28 (human dignity), Article 29 (freedom and security of the person), Article 31 (privacy), Article 32 (freedom of conscience, religion, belief and opinion), Article 43 (highest standard of health) and Article 50 (the right to fair hearing).

The petitioner also argued that the petition neither concerns same-sex marriage, nor does it seek to legalize same-sex marriage; and, if successful, it will not have the effect of mandating or requiring Kenya to recognize same-sex marriage. He maintained that the petition only challenged the criminalization and severe punishment provided under the criminal law for the fundamental and inborn characterization of their sexual orientation.

The counsel for the petitioners argued that Section 162 of the Penal Code did not define the phrases ‘unnatural offences’, ‘against the order of nature’; and it was unclear whether the phrases meant sexual intercourse or include oral, anal, vaginal sex, or whether they include any other contact with the genital organ of another person. Regarding Section 165 of the Code, it was submitted that the phrases ‘indecency with another male person’ and ‘any act of gross indecency with another male person’ were unclear. The counsels placed relied on the cases of US, UK, Ireland, South Africa, and also on Indian cases Naz Foundation v. Govt. (NCT of Delhi), (2016) 15 SCC 619, decided by the Delhi High Court and Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 1 SCC 791 decided by the Supreme Court of India, where the constitutionality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 was under challenge. The said Section 377  was similar to the disputed Sections herein and was also a colonial-era law that criminalized homosexual acts as an unnatural offence. The counsel also stated that many other countries around the world had decriminalized homosexuality.

The Court opined that the phrase ‘carnal knowledge’ had been judicially defined in Gaolete v. State to mean “penetration through the anus that makes the intercourse ‘against the order of nature’ and therefore provides the other element of the offence.” It was further observed that ‘unnatural offence’ was defined in Law Dictionary; and ‘indecent act’ was defined under Section 2 of the Sexual Offences Act, 2006. Thus, the Court refused to strike down the impugned provisions as unconstitutional on the basis of ambiguity and vagueness, opining that the impugned phrases had been clearly defined in law dictionaries and in a catena of judicial pronouncements.

While dealing with impugned provisions’ consonance with Constitution, it was opined where there is a legitimate reason, then, the conduct or the law complained of cannot amount to discrimination. It was held that the impugned provisions apply equally to heterosexuals and was not targeted at a particular community (LGBTIQ herein).

The Court further held that petitioners had not produced any tangible evidence to support the alleged violation of the Constitution. It was opined that he who makes an allegation, has the onus to prove every element constituting his or her cause of action, and this includes sufficient facts to justify a finding that his rights have been violated.

The Court opined that the foreign judgments relied on in support of their case by the petitioners, were only of persuasive value and caution must be exercised while placing reliance on foreign jurisprudence in cases alleging infraction of Constitutional rights. The Court observed that decriminalizing homosexuality would pose a threat to the institution of marriage protected under Article 45 of the Constitution of Kenya, which provided that family was a natural and fundamental unit of society and a necessary basis for social order, and shall enjoy the recognition and protection of the State; and, that, “every adult had a right to marry a person of the opposite sex, based on the free consent of the parties.”  Hence, the contention that the petitioners do not seek recognition of same-sex marriages, did not guarantee the authenticity of the institution of marriage as adopted by the Kenyan society.

In view of the above, the Court upheld the constitutionality of the impugned penal provisions.[EG v. Attorney General, Petition No. 150 of 2016, decided on 24-05-2019]

Hot Off The PressNews

In the southeast Asian nation of Brunei a new law proposed Homosexuality and Adultery to be punishable by death.

As per the new law, anyone found to be guilty of the offenses will be stoned to death. The capital punishments are to be “witnessed by a group of Muslims.”

Beginning on April 3, any individuals found guilty of the offenses will be stoned to death, according to a new penal code.

The new penal code was announced in May 2014, by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, who also acts as the country’s prime minister. In announcing the change, government’s website quoted the Sultan saying that his government “does not expect other people to accept and agree with it, but that it would suffice if they just respect the nation in the same way that it also respects them.”

[Source: CNN]

Image Credits: CNN

Case BriefsSupreme Court

  What nature gives is natural. That is called the nature within.

                                                                       C.J. Dipak Misra and A.M. Khanwilkar, J.

Supreme Court: The 5-Judge Constitution Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ. in their landmark judgment held Section 377 IPC unconstitutional insofar it criminalised gay sex between consenting adults. The Bench which delivered three opinions along with the leading judgment, reversed the 2-Judge Bench decision in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation,(2014) 1 SCC 1  which in turn had reversed the judgment of a Division Bench of Delhi High Court in Naz Foundation v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2009 SCC OnLine Del 1762. The Delhi High Court in Naz Foundation had declared Section 377 violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution insofar as it criminalised consensual sexual acts of adults in private.

 I am what I am, so take me as I am.

                                                          –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The present judgment can be said to be a watershed moment in India’s journey to gender equality and social justice. The judgment not only emancipates the LGBTQ community from the shackles of gender inequality; it not only gives them the freedom of individuality, Right to privacy, life and liberty, freedom of choice; but also the Right to freedom of self-expression. The decision can fairly be looked upon as a classic example of how the Indian Judiciary time and again rises to the injustice suffered by the discriminated strata of the society. The judgment more than anything gives identity.

The Court considered the validity of the section by analysing it in juxtaposition to Section 375 which defines rape. Drawing an analogy, the Court held that if consensual carnal intercourse between a heterosexual couple does not amount to rape, it definitely should not be designated as an unnatural offence under Section 377 IPC. The expression against the order of nature has nowhere been defined. The non-consensual acts which have been criminalised by the section, have already been designated as penal offences under Section 375 and POCSO Act. If the section remains on the statute book in its present form, it will allow harassment and exploitation of LGBT community to prevail. It abridges both human dignity and fundamental right of privacy and choice of the citizenry, however small. Right to privacy takes within its sweep the right to every individual including that of the LGBT to express their choices in terms of sexual inclination. The section does not survive the trinity test of Articles 14, 19 and 21. Freedom of choice cannot be scuttled or abridged on the threat of criminal prosecution and made paraplegic on mercurial stance of majoritarian perception. To understand the scope of the judicial pronouncement by the sentinel of the qui vive – as our Judiciary has stood always — it is pertinent to delineate the observations made by the Hon’ble Judges in their opinions.

CJ Dipak Misra (for himself and A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ.)

                                                   One defines oneself. That is the glorious form of individuality

  •  It is only where each individual is liberated from the shackles of bondage of social exclusion, identity, seclusion and isolation from the mainstream, that we can call ourselves a truly free society.
  • Through its dynamic purposive interpretive approach, the judiciary must strive to breathe life into the Constitution and not render the document of collection of mere dead letters.
  • Ours is a transformative Constitution. It will become a dead testament without dynamic; vibrant and pragmatic interpretation.
  • Constitutional morality embraces within itself virtues of ushering a pluralistic and inclusive society.
  • Expression of choice is a facet of human dignity and is essential component of liberty.
  • To compel a person having a certain sexual expression to proselytize to another is like asking a body part to perform a function it was never meant to perform.

R.F. Nariman, J.

  • The present definition of mental illness in Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 makes it clear that homosexuality is not considered a mental illness.
  • Viewed in light of the principles contained in Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender of Identity, Section 377 will have to be declared unconstitutional.
  • When it is found that privacy interests came in and the State has no compelling reason to continue an existing law which penalises same-sex couples who cause no harm to others, it is transgression of Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21.
  • LGBTQ are entitled to protection of equal laws and we are entitled to be treated in the society as human beings.

Dr D.Y. Chandrachud, J.

It is difficult to right the wrongs of history. But we can certainly set the course for the Future.

  • The case involves much more than mere decriminalising certain conduct. The case is about aspiration to realise constitutional rights.
  • Section 377 is unconstitutional in so far as it penalises a consensual relationship between adults of the same gender. Constitutional values of dignity and liberty can accept nothing less.
  • LGBT have a constitutional right to citizenship in all its manifestations.
  • It is difficult to locate any intelligible differentia between indeterminate terms such as natural and unnatural. It is even more problematic to say that the classification between individuals who engage in natural intercourse and those engaging in carnal intercourse against the order of nature can be legally valid.
  • Constitution protects fluidities of sexual experience and leaves it to the consenting adults to find fulfilment in their relationships, in a diversity of cultures, among plural ways of life and infinite ways of love and longing.
  • By application of Section 377, MSM and transgender persons are excluded from access to health care due to social stigma attached to their sexual identity. Being particularly vulnerable to contraction of HIV, this deprivation can only be described as cruel and debilitating. The indignity suffered by sexual minority cannot stand the test of constitutional validity.

Indu Malhotra, J.

  • Homosexuality is not an aberration but a variation of sexuality.
  • Sexual orientation is not a choice. It manifests in early adolescence.
  • Sexual expression and intimacy of consensual nature, between adults in private, cannot be treated as carnal intercourse against the order of nature.
  • LGBT is a sexual minority and is equally entitled to protection afforded by Article 15.
  • LGBT are entitled to complete autonomy over the most intimate decisions relating to their personal life, including the choice of their partners. Such choices must be protected under Article 21.
  • Section 377 compels LGBT persons to live in a closet. They are seriously disadvantaged and prejudiced when it comes to access to healthcare facilities.
  • The Section cannot be justified as reasonable restriction under Article 19(2) on basis of public or societal morality as it is inherently subjective.

The Judgment that was delivered, joins the plethora of authorities – including, inter alia, National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India, (2014) 5 SCC 438; K.S Puttaswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1; Indra Sarma v. V.K.V. Sarma, (2013) 15 SCC 755; etc.- that were referred to be the Bench in the case herein. The petitions were disposed of observing and holding all that is mentioned hereinabove. [Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, 2018 10 SCC 1, decided on 06-09-2018]    

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 5-Judge Constitution Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra, Rohinton Nariman, A.M Khanwillkar, DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ. addressed the petitions challenging Section 377 of IPC, 1860, which criminalises unnatural sex between two consenting adults while revisiting its December 2013 verdict in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation, (2014) 1 SCC 1 which upheld the criminalisation of gay sex.

“As the protector of fundamental rights, the Supreme Court has the duty to protect the LGBTQ community.”

Supreme Court began the hearing with two issues open which were: Sex against the order of nature whether retrograde and can sexual rights to persons be denied just because they are the minuscule minority?

Appearing for one of the petitioners, Mukul Rohatgi contended that the rights of the gay community are protected under Article 21 and “Being gay or lesbian is not a matter of choiceIt is innate, inborn and actually has to do something with the genes.” He stated that a gay man or gay woman shouldn’t be identified as something else.
As stated by learned advocate Mukul Rohatgi on stressing the criminalisation of Section 377 IPC, he quotes that “This is a case of Constitutional morality v. Others” also Section 377 is based on Victorian morality.”Ancient India was different.”

He referred to the following cases in support of his contentions which were:

Senior Advocate Datar began with his arguments by stating that Section 377 IPC is pre-constitutional, not in conformity with the Constitution. Further argued, that one of the Law Commission Reports had also recommended repealing the said section. He also stated that if a person has a different type of sexual orientation to which he has expressed, then it can’t be treated as a crime, to which he also stated that Article 21 of the Constitution includes my choice of sexual orientation and DY Chandrachud, J. accepted the said proposition.

Datar contended that there is no such thing as “Order of nature” and concluded his arguments by seeking a declaration to protect the rights of LGBT community through striking down Section 377 IPC.

The proceedings concluded for the day, Constitution Bench to resume the hearing from tomorrow i.e. July 11, 2018, in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, WP(Crl.) No. 76 of 2016, order dated 10-07-2018.

[Source: The Hindu]