After the Supreme Court delivered its verdict in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation (2014) overruling the Delhi High Court’s decision, the National University of Juridical Sciences brought out a special law review issue assessing the judgment. Prof. M.P. Singh, the constitutional scholar and former vice chancellor of the university, wrote an article praising the judgment for its judicial restraint, in which he described the use of constitutional litigation by sexual minorities as a case of “misplaced hope in courts”. Prof. Singh prefaced his article with a cautionary extract from Judge Learned Hand that warns us against “placing our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes”. Prof. Singh similarly suggests that what activists ought to do is to educate legislators rather than pin their hopes on the judiciary. Underlying these opinions seemed to be an unwritten rule of an economy of hope (that one could have a little but not too much of it) but the essential trait of hope is that it is greedy sentiment that demands the impossible, and the Naz judgment with its rich evocation of dignity, liberty and equality had already proven that we could not just demand but hope for the impossible.
By LAWRENCE LIANG and SIDDHARTH NARRAIN
(Published as Magic in the ‘City of Words’ in the August 2009 issue of Himal)
After agitating for many years against the existence of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised homosexuality, it is understandable that the Delhi High Court’s 2 July decision in the Naz Foundation case, decriminalising homosexuality, has been welcomed and celebrated by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. But to see this decision as a victory of the LGBT community alone would be to do injustice to the Delhi High Court’s remarkably progressive and well-reasoned decision, and the immense potential this judgement has for changing the course of equality jurisprudence in India. It would also display a very narrow understanding of the relationship between constitutional change and social movements striving for a more just and democratic society. Continue reading Striving for Magic in the City of Words