Decriminalizing Same-Sex Relations in India: A Landmark Victory for LGBTQ+ Rights

Case Title: Navtej Singh Johar v/s Union Of India

Decided On: 6 September 2018


Welcome to the official blog of the Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates, where we are dedicated to providing litigation support services for matters related to gender justice and equality in India. In today’s blog post, we aim to shed light on the prevailing issues surrounding Gender Justice and Equality, the legal framework for their protection, and the steps we can take as a society to combat these acts. Join us as we explore this critical subject and empower you with the knowledge to protect your rights and safety.

In a monumental decision, the Supreme Court of India unanimously declared Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 unconstitutional insofar as it pertained to consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex. This landmark judgment came as a result of a petition filed by the noted dancer, Navtej Singh Johar, who challenged the validity of Section 377 on the grounds of constitutional rights and protections.

Background: The Shadow of Section 377

Section 377, originally drafted during British colonial rule in 1861, criminalized ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature,’ thereby extending its purview to consensual homosexual acts. For years, this archaic law had perpetuated discrimination, stigma, and fear within the LGBTQ+ community, pushing them to the fringes of Indian society.

The legal journey to challenge Section 377’s constitutionality had its origins in a 2009 decision by the Delhi High Court in the case of Naz Foundation v. Govt. of N.C.T. of Delhi, which ruled that Section 377 was unconstitutional concerning consensual same-sex relationships. However, this landmark decision was later overturned in 2014 by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation.

The Petitioner’s Stand: Advocating for Constitutional Rights

Navtej Singh Johar, a prominent dancer, and member of the LGBTQ+ community, filed a Writ Petition in the Supreme Court in 2016, seeking recognition of the right to sexuality, sexual autonomy, and the right to choose a sexual partner as an integral part of the right to life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. He also sought a declaration that Section 377 was unconstitutional, arguing that it was vague and lacked a reasonable classification.

The Petitioner further contended that Section 377 violated Article 14 (Right to Equality Before the Law) because it did not clearly define ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature.’ The law, according to the Petitioner, discriminated based on the sex of a person’s sexual partner, thereby violating Article 15 (Protection from Discrimination). Moreover, Section 377 had a chilling effect on Article 19 (Freedom of Expression) by denying the right to express one’s sexual identity and choice of a romantic or sexual partner. It also violated the right to privacy, subjecting LGBTQ+ individuals to fear and humiliation.

The Respondent’s Position and Interveners’ Arguments

The Union of India submitted that it left the question of the constitutional validity of Section 377 as applied to consenting adults of the same sex to the wisdom of the Court. Certain interveners argued against the Petitioner, contending that the right to privacy was not unrestricted and that such acts were derogatory to the constitutional concept of dignity. They argued that decriminalizing such acts could increase the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, be detrimental to the institution of marriage, and potentially violate Article 25 (Freedom of Conscience and Propagation of Religion).

Supreme Court’s Landmark Observations

The Supreme Court’s observations in the Navtej Singh Jauhar case marked a watershed moment for LGBTQ+ rights in India:

  1. Right to Privacy and Personal Autonomy: The Court recognized that the right to privacy is an inherent aspect of individual autonomy. It asserted that adults have the right to make choices about their intimate relationships without state interference.
  2. Equality and Non-Discrimination: The judgment emphasized that discrimination based on sexual orientation is a severe violation of the principle of equality enshrined in the Indian Constitution. It proclaimed that the Constitution extends its protection to all, regardless of their sexual orientation.
  3. Dignity and Identity: The Court underscored that criminalizing same-sex relationships was an affront to the dignity and identity of LGBTQ+ individuals. Section 377 perpetuated stigma, causing significant psychological harm.
  4. Overturning of Section 377: The Court declared Section 377 unconstitutional insofar as it applied to consensual adult same-sex relationships. This groundbreaking ruling effectively decriminalized same-sex acts.
  5. Inclusivity and Acceptance: The judgment called for a shift in societal attitudes, urging acceptance and compassion towards the LGBTQ+ community, promoting a more inclusive society.

Impact and Aftermath

The Navtej Singh Jauhar case has left an indelible mark on LGBTQ+ rights in India:

  1. Decriminalization of Same-Sex Relationships: The judgment decriminalized same-sex relationships, ensuring legal protection for LGBTQ+ individuals and upholding their right to personal autonomy and privacy.
  2. Empowering the LGBTQ+ Community: The ruling empowered the LGBTQ+ community, instilling pride and acceptance by the legal system.
  3. Dismantling Stigma and Discrimination: The case challenged deeply ingrained social stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, fostering a more empathetic and understanding society.
  4. Advancement of the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement: The judgment galvanized the LGBTQ+ rights movement in India, inspiring increased activism, awareness, and advocacy.
  5. Celebration of Diversity: The case reignited discussions about diversity, inclusivity, and respect for all identities and orientations.

Challenges and Ongoing Efforts

Despite the significant progress made by the Navtej Singh Jauhar case, challenges persist:

  1. Societal Acceptance: Achieving full social acceptance and inclusivity for LGBTQ+ individuals requires ongoing efforts to challenge deeply rooted prejudices and promote empathy and understanding.
  2. Legal Protections: While Section 377 was struck down, comprehensive legal protections for LGBTQ+ rights are still needed to address issues such as discrimination, hate crimes, and adoption rights.
  3. Cultural Change: Initiating a cultural shift to embrace diversity and equal rights for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, is an ongoing endeavor.
  4. Visibility and Representation: Ensuring the visibility and representation of LGBTQ+ individuals in various spheres of life is essential for normalizing their identities and experiences.

The Road Ahead: Promoting Acceptance and Equality

The judgment in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India signifies a significant step toward the protection of LGBTQ+ rights and equality in India. While the legal battle has secured a major victory, societal acceptance, comprehensive legal protections, cultural change, and the visibility and representation of LGBTQ+ individuals remain ongoing challenges. This landmark case serves as a powerful testament to the transformative potential of the Indian Constitution in advancing justice, equality, and inclusivity for all, regardless of their sexual orientation.”


Navtej Singh Jauhar v Union of India, WP (C) 572/2016, stands as a pivotal milestone in the journey towards LGBTQ+ rights and social justice in India. The Supreme Court’s decision reaffirms the constitutional principles of equality, privacy, and dignity for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. While the quest for full equality continues, this case represents a testament to the judiciary’s role in advancing justice, equality, and inclusivity for all.

We are a law firm in the name and style of Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates at Gurugram and Rewari. We are providing litigation support services for matters related to the Constitution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This field is required.

This field is required.


The following disclaimer governs the use of this website (“Website”) and the services provided by the Law offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate & Associates in accordance with the laws of India. By accessing or using this Website, you acknowledge and agree to the terms and conditions stated in this disclaimer.

The information provided on this Website is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice or relied upon as such. The content of this Website is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Firm. Any reliance on the information provided on this Website is done at your own risk.

The Law Firm makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information contained on this Website.

The Law Firm disclaims all liability for any errors or omissions in the content of this Website or for any actions taken in reliance on the information provided herein. The information contained in this website, should not be construed as an act of solicitation of work or advertisement in any manner.