Sunday, September 30, 2018

Three historic Supreme Court judgements -- on homosexuality, adultery, Sabarimala

Supreme Court of India
Winds of change are sweeping across India. In the past three weeks, the Supreme Court of the country, pronounced three historic verdicts, giving a stamp of approval to three very contentious and sharply divisive views. I don't think any time in the past we had such important rulings coming in quick succession from the top court of the country.


In 1861, when India was a colony of the British empire, Section 377 came into being, which, inter alia, made homosexual relationship a criminal offence. On September 6, the Supreme Court read down the section, decriminalising homosexual relationship between two consenting adults. With gay and lesbian sex no longer a crime, there was huge jubiliation among the LGBTQ community.

Read more in The Hindu


On September 27, the Supreme Court struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, a highly gender-biased 158-year-old colonial-era adultery law. Hitherto, under the law, only a husband could complain against adultery. In other words, if a man strayed, his wife couldn't legally launch a case. Also, interestingly, a wife's affair with a man won't be considered adultery if it had the connivance of her husband!

Now all these horrendous clauses have gone. However, the ruling doesn't mean every married man and woman can now safely launch an extramarital affair. It is still a valid ground for divorce.

While generally the ruling was welcomed, some people felt that the ruling impacted the traditional sanctity of the institution of marriage.

Read more in NDTV


Sabarimala temple
In the state of Kerala in south India, a very popular temple, Sabarimala, from time immemorial, has been barred for women between the age of 10 and 50. It effectively means women in the child-bearing age are not allowed in.

According to this article, the legend has it that the presiding deity of Sabarimala, Lord Ayyappa, is a celibate so that he can focus on answering the prayers of his devotees. And he will remain celibate till that day when there is no first-time devotee coming to the temple. (Every year, there are many who make their first visit to the temple. So Ayyappa remains a celibate.)

The Supreme Court ruled that devotion cannot be subjected to discrimination, and patriarchal notion cannot be allowed to trump equality in devotion. "Rules based on biological characteristics will not muster Constitution," the court said.

Interestingly, the lone woman judge in the five-judge bench gave a dissenting verdict saying it should be up to to the practitioners of the faith to frame laws governing them.

Read more in NDTV


The differences between man and woman, which used to be once very stark, are now fast blurring. Men and women, are now seen as individuals, and their gender is never the primary element of consideration. So, it was only a matter of time, that homosexual relationship was made legal. Before long, we would see same-sex marriage too in India.

Regarding the Sabarimala verdict, the substance of the ruling was that there is no constitutional bar on any woman going to Sabarimala. It is a matter of individual faith whether someone wants to go to the temple or not. So, it's quite possible that many women, in spite of this ruling, will not go to Sabarimala, till they attain menopause. That's fine. No one is forcing anyone to go to the temple.

These rulings also signify another stage in our human evolution. We should remember that we are what we are after a series of evolutionary stages. We were neither created nor born in the way we are now. We have reached this stage. It is important to look back and see what we were in the past.

A simple example: T-shirt and jeans is a very common attire for both men and women. But many years ago, they were not as common as they are today. We have changed our dressing style. Many other life styles too have changed. And they will continue to change. That's the way it has been; and that's the way it will be.

As Victor Hugo said: “No force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come.”


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pradeep - certainly a lot has happened in India recently ... long may a more peaceful existence between peoples happen and exist ... as your quote says 'No force on earth can stop an idea whose time has come' ... cheers for a very good article - Hilary

Liz A. said...

That is good news. The world is a-changing. At least for you, in a good way.

KParthasarathi said...

Change is constant and the value system is also changing in keeping with time.There were many long entrenched practices in the past that some people were loathe to change but were thankfully jettisoned.Untouchability,Sati,child marriage,Child labour and Bonded labour are a few examples.The courts decide based on constitution,equity and laws of land and the people need to accept them

SG said...

Thanks for your wonderful analysis of the recent Supreme Court of India rulings. My personal opinion is ALL laws that India still uses from the "British Time" must be discarded.

J E Oneil said...

Wow, it's so weird to read something with the words "Supreme Court" in it and not be horrified. This is great news to hear. I can see why my cousin wants to move to India.

Kanika G said...

Thanks for sharing. Somehow I missed the adultery ruling. A lot has indeed changed recently to make us proud. I hope, as you predict, that same sex marriage does actually become legal soon.

Destination Infinity said...

I wonder how the courts set themselves up to interfere in what I see are personal preferences?

Destination Infinity

rudraprayaga said...

It is an informative article especially for those who are not in India and you have worded it adequately.
But somehow I don't stand for all the three.
1. Homosexuality- nature has designed some creatures as monosexual, bisexual and asexual.The main purpose is propagation and the attraction between person and person is its background preparation and ok to a certain extent delight. So this verdict may lead in due course to open movement at the cost of ethics. And that may carry parents to a nightmare.

You have worded the article adequately and the way is appreciable also, but Pradeep,I cannot stand for all the three verdicts. After all the judges are human beings and their judgement may contain their whims. As things change according to the flow of time, judgement also should contain a say of the public. After a survey among the users had they arrived at a point it would have been better.

rudraprayaga said...

I had written the comments, something happened. Once it disappeared half the way and second time no indication as published or not.

Ankita Sharma said...

these judgments took so long to come. Even though i do not agree with two of them, yet atleast SC is taking care of pending cases related to majority

rudraprayaga said...

Sorry, Pradeep half of my comment has vanished. Some problem was there with my internet connection at that time. Anyway my mind is very feminine and hence it cannot cope up with all the three verdicts. But you have explored the factual matter. Nice.

B Pradeep Nair said...

Looks like some technical issue with Blogger, Sarla. No problem. Thanks for dropping by.

B Pradeep Nair said...

Indeed, Hilary. Times are achanging, and India is no exception.

B Pradeep Nair said...

Thanks, Liz for dropping by and for the comments.

B Pradeep Nair said...

Yes, KP. Faith is very personal thing. Whatever be my belief, I can't comment, or judge or interfere with another person's belief.

B Pradeep Nair said...

Yes, Rajan, a number of archaic rules need to be jettisoned or modified.

B Pradeep Nair said...

That's a good one, Oneil. Thanks.

B Pradeep Nair said...

Yes, Kanika. Social fabric keeps changing.

Darla M Sands said...

Agreed. ~nods~ Great article! Thank you for sharing.